Fat Fritz and the Future

August 13, 2019

There is an exciting new development in chess computation.

Excerpts from the article in ChessBase:


It's a semi-secret development, an AlphaZero clone, engineered over the past nine months for ChessBase. Fat Fritz was tested by some of the best players in the world, who expressed unmitigated delight over the ideas and improvements it came up with. Now the program is publicly available on the ChessBase Engine Cloud. And it is running on awesome hardware.

In early October 2018 Frederic Friedel asked his son Tommy and nephew Noah to build him a really powerful computing machine. They bought the components, consisting of a 12-core processor and two state-of-the-art graphics cards that had just been released. These cards have thousands of graphic and tensor core processor units (GPUs and TPU), originally intended to power 3D video display in games as well as ray-tracing lighting effects. But it turns out that the processors are eminently suited for neural network development.

After it was installed, Fred had a very powerful AI machine humming in his home office. Humming? Actually it is a fairly loud whirring sound of multiple fans, dissipating the heat from the 600 watts of energy the computer consumes. That heated the room during the cold Hamburg winter to a very comfortable 23°C, with central heating turned off. The constant sounds of the fans led it to be fondly referred to as “The Woosh”.

Fred offered me the chance to upload tools that were needed to build a neural network for chess, and once that was completed the machine went to work, playing an average 50,000 games per day against itself. I built myself a second, comparable machine which downloaded the games from the Woosh and learned from them – and from other games. Despite this sizable personal investment, and two strong computers, the project still had a thousand-fold hardware disadvantage when compared to AlphaZero, and at least hundred-fold compared to the community-driven effort Leela Chess. Nevertheless the hybrid mix soon came together in ways even our most optimistic thinking could not have predicted. Not only was it playing at superhuman levels of chess strength, but more importantly it did so in a completely new way, not with brute force tactics but with positional ideas that it has come up with, after studying millions of games and billions of positions.

To check the overall playing strength we entered an early version to compete in a well-respected computer tournament held in Leiden, Netherlands, and run by Jan Krabbenbos. It brought together not just the best PC programs around, but also unique efforts such as Jonny, a project that runs on a university server backed by 2400 CPU cores. As a matter of fact Jonny was using a hybrid neural network itself, as part of its makeup, and had beaten Leela in their individual game at the World Computer Championship. So it was not to be underestimated.

After four rounds, the leader was Jonny with a perfect score, followed by “Deus X” (the Fat Fritz prototype) with 3½ out of 4. We locked horns in round five, and after a tough battle, Deus X came out victorious with black, taking over the lead. After seven rounds, we had won the competition with 6 out of 7. That made it the first neural network to win a computer chess tournament. We showed the games to a couple of GM friends for their opinions, and one game stood out to them as utterly unique and beautiful in the attack the neural network built and conducted. See for yourself:

So we gave access to half a dozen really deep players on the Engine Cloud. Some of them hovering around 2800 on the Elo scale, some were weaker tournament players. We wanted to find out whether the latter found the program helpful and useful to their preparation. Their reactions were, without exception, extremely positive — often exuberant. They all wanted permanent access to the program. We will be telling you about their reactions and giving you examples of their analysis in the following weeks. It is very interesting to see how just an hour or two with the program can change the evaluation of openings and positions of 2700+ players analysing with it.


Please read all of Albert Silver’s article at the location cited above.

Would you like do your preparation work on Fat Fritz?

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