Dear Chess Friends,

Here is our response to Mr. Levy’s publication a “A lost Opportunity”

A Lost Scandal

I read David Levy’s article, A Lost Opportunity, with lively interest. [The] respected author, expected arbiter of the match Rybka – Junior in fact accused us in thwarting the match, which was initiated by ourselves (moreover, we provided the prize fund [of] $100,000 USD for the match). The accusation in 8 pages cites private correspondence between the Rybka and Junior teams without our consent. We’ll try to be more concise in our response.

First let us brief [you] on the story of the matter. Early in June Elista hosted the computer match Deep Fritz – Deep Junior. Though the friendly nature of the match was evident (two representatives of the same chess computer company took part), it was widely spread that the winner will have the right to challenge the FIDE World Champion. In such a way the friendly match suddenly turned into qualification for a rather prestigious competition.

Although Rybka showed interest, it was not allowed to participate in this selection, in spite of the fact that this program sits firmly at the top of the rating lists of all independent testing organizations. The result was Vasik Rajlich’s Open Letter, in which he challenged the winner of the match Deep Fritz – Deep Junior.

[The] Presidential board of FIDE (27th of June, Tallinn) supported the idea proposed by Vasik Rajlich and recommended that the match Rybka – Junior would be played during the World Championship in September 2007, Mexico. We also conducted the negotiations with Mexican organizers and they agreed to absorb part of costs for organizing the match.

Initially, we had proposed a “winner-takes-all” approach, i.e. each side should deposit USD $100,000 towards the prize fund and the winner would get the entire prize fund. However, we were aware of Shay Bushinsky’s standpoint, expressed by him in Elista, that such a match “bet” is unacceptable for Junior. The Israeli side was ready to play with guaranteed share in the prize fund only.

Early in July we sent the challenge to Junior, where this standpoint was taken into consideration – we guaranteed the prize fund of USD $100,000 and suggested sharing it between the winner and the defeated side in proportion 70:30. For almost three weeks we had no reply, finally (19th of July) the negotiations started.

One of the sponsors of the World Championship in Mexico is “Intel”, which was willing to provide two identical state-of-art computers for the match. The engineers had the opportunity to arrive in Mexico 4-5 days before the match with ample time to test the equipment. The other option for the teams was to bring the computers with them. An up-to-date 16-core computer costs 10 thousand dollars or slightly more and weighs no more than 40 kg.

It is difficult for us to judge why New-York spending for Junior team in 2003 were 30-40 thousand dollars. Now, as you can see, everything is much cheaper and simpler. Besides it, several respected competitions feature local play. This list includes: Mainz 960 World
Championship, Fritz vs. Kramnik match, and even Junior vs. Kasparov match. To our mind, remote game is needed for open events to not exclude anybody – for invitational events, this issue disappears.

However, Junior’s team insisted on remote game only. Let’s return to Elista again. The match Deep Fritz – Deep Junior had 2 press conferences with engineers. One of them saw the innocuous, one would think, question to be asked: what chess players consulted the programs and who made necessary adjusting between the games? (the rules allow it).

However, this question made the representatives of both programs to panic a bit. They were confused and claimed promptly something of that sort – there was no interference in the course of the game and such interference was impossible. Besides this, both teams preferred to keep in strict secrecy the assistants’ names, as if the matter concerned the development of a new nuclear bomb.

Where in fact, which post address had the basis computers of Deep Fritz and Deep Junior and who was the operators of the remote computers remained sealed information. We wished to avoid in every possible way any suspicions of unfair game and any scandals like that one, which broke out after the ending of the second match between Kasparov and Deep Blue.

As you remember, Kasparov accused the IBM team that the computer used human assistance. IBM dismantled the computer in a hurry; however the computer’s triumphant result went down in history, while IBM stocks, according to experts, improved to 11 billion dollars.

In this issue, however, we met the wishes of Junior’s team and were ready to carry out the match with remote computers. The only conditions we had was transparency of the way computers made their moves and the checking for “assistant free thinking”.

However, with regret, we were convinced that our suggestion of open and comprehensive control was not supported by both our rivals and Mr. Levy. That’s why we had to resume our previous position and insisted on [an] on-site game in Mexico. While it didn’t matter for us, whether both sides bring the computers with them (there were no insurmountable financial or organizational obstacles) or opt for using the computers, which would have been kindly provided by Intel in Mexico. Unfortunately, none of these suggestions were acceptable to the other side.

In conclusion, we would like to point out that history shows that high-level computer matches grab the attention of chess players all over the world. Additionally, computers have done much to increase the popularity of our ancient and ever young game. That’s why we do hope, that during the World Championship in Mexico, we will see Rybka play a fair and hard fought match against another program which ranks among the absolutely strongest in the world.

Sergey Abramov,
Convekta Ltd, General Manager

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