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The first international computer tournament was held in Stockholm in 1974, where the world's strongest Chess programs competed in the first World Computer Chess Championship. The first title went to the Soviet Union with a program called Kaissa, spurring the West to come back with Chess 4.6 the next year, the start of a 5 year reign by the USA.
Since then we have seen many more such events, including the widely publicised contest in 1997 between the supercomputer Deep Blue and the world's strongest player at the time, Kasparov. Other competitions have appeared with the games Go (Weichi from China), Shogi (Japanese Chess) and Bridge hosting the biggest events.
Recent competitions:
link to Shogi competitions Shogi link to Go competitions Go link to Bridge competitions Bridge link to Chess competitions Chess
The Contribution to Engine Development
These events are important in many ways. First they provide an opportunity to test your program. These are also good opportunities to meet and discuss ideas with competing teams. These events are often linked to academic conferences, so the evenings become brainstorming sessions for new ideas. Finally, success in these world championships has an important commercial impact: It is much easier to sell a program that is the current World Champion, or in the top few competing programs, than a program that has not performed well. This generally results in most teams putting huge amounts of effort preparing for these events. You can be sure that everyone you face has been burning the midnight oil tuning their program!
The author of Amano Shogi catches up on some sleep at the 1999 World Computer Shogi Championship in Tokyo
Our in-house Shogi program "Shotest", authored by Jeff Rollason, competed for the first time in the 1997 World Computer Shogi Championships in Tokyo (http://www.computer-shogi.org/index_e.html). This is a field completely dominated by Japan, now attracting some 60 competing programs. Shotest made some waves, coming 13th at its first attempt, 10 places higher than any other non-Japanese program. These early competitions were held in Tokyo bay, close to the huge Tokyo Disneyland complex.
1997 Shotest makes the decisive move to go on and beat the then World Champion YSS
Shotest at the ISF invitation tournament in Tokyo 2002
The following year really attracted attention as Shotest qualified for the final round of the top 8-programs: the first Western program to do so. When the final round came, the final game between Shotest and IS Shogi would decide who took the title. Since Shotest had already beaten IS Shogi earlier, having a non-Japanese World Champion was a strong possibility! Shotest unfortunately lost, coming 3rd overall, a position it defended the following year. Shotest has competed in all World Championships since, excepting 2003 and 2004, where the creation and consolidation of AI Factory took precedence!
Shotest has achieved the strongest ranking of any Western entry in all championships. It has competed in 10 World Championships, 2 Invitation ISF tournaments (Tokyo) and 3 Olympiads, winning one of the latter. In all it has beaten 3 different world champions on 6 occasions in the year they were world champion. It is available on Xbox, PC and PSP. Work will continue on Shotest.
Shotest in the final round at the Tokyo 2002 World Championships against the then World Champion Todai shogi
Below are links to reports on Computer Shogi tournaments which include news on AI Factory's Shotest Shogi:
Account of 8th World Computer Shogi Championship (in Japanese) - Shotest came third in this competition.
The Computer Shogi Tournaments - Reports by Reijer Grimbergen
Full accounts of all the 8th to 13th World Computer Shogi Championships (in Japanese)
Dr Mick Reiss's program Go4++ (now simply Go++), has been competing since 1987, where he has a solid track record of always being in the top few ranked programs, having competed in some 25 events in Japan, Korea, China, the USA and Europe. These events are entirely run using Microcomputers in modern times, but in early years Mick's Go program was also used to test experimental hardware, and in one Hamburg tournament ran on a 32 processor transputer.
Mick Reiss at the 2001 Guiyang Go Festival, China. There are 4,000 people behind him, all playing Go!
Go++ is now ranked the overall strongest Go program, from the last few tournaments, and iscurrently the top selling Go program in Japan. His arch-rival for many years has not been from Japan, but from China, where the venerable Chen Zhixing, author of Handtalk (now called Goemate) dominated the early tournaments, but who has now dropped below Go++ in the rankings.
Mick's program has featured in many publications, including a long article in New Scientist: See New Scientist vol 174 issue 2338 - 13 April 2002, page 38
Andrew Bracher started work on Oxford Bridge as early as 1980, then with a modest Commodore VIC20. Unlike Go, Shogi and Chess, Bridge is not a game of complete information, which adds another substantial dimension of complexity to solving the game. From a modest start, a solid Bridge Program was developed that now competes in Computer Tournaments. In 1998 his program (Omar Bridge) competed in a tournament with six other Bridge programs and the World Bridge Champion Zia Mahmood. Omar Bridge did not rank above the champion, but led the field jointly with Zia for several rounds and finished joint top among the computer opponents. Oxford Bridge is still being very actively developed.
Chess accounts for the bulk of Computer tournaments and attracts the most substantial effort. The top programs now play at a level substantially above human World Champions, the current strongest being Hydra. One of our old Chess engines is based on the Chess System Tal program, authored by Chris Whittington. This unusual program is renowned for its strong human style, resembling that of the former World Champion Mikhail Tal. Its strength was in the creation of positions with great tactical complexities, as the World Champion Petrosian remarked "I know what to do in the positions that Tal creates, but I do not know how to create them". However AI Factory also has its own newer in-house chess program "Treebeard", authored by Jeff Rollason. This was chosen by Microsoft for their MSN Chess and a later version of this is by far the most popular chess program on Android, ranking #10/#19 UK/US among Brain & Puzzle apps, where the next highest chess is ranked is #45/#81. Treebeard also has an unusual human-like play style through its unusual static lookahead and probability-based tree search. This gives a strong human-like quality to the games, making it an agreeable opponent. However the engine is no slouch as is widely praised for its strength.