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TCEC Premier Division – the strongest computer chess event in history

TCEC Season 11 logo by Santiago Mendez

TCEC Season 11 logo by Santiago Mendez

After four divisions of exciting qualification battles, we are at the doorstep of the highest category of the Top Chess Engine Championship. The eight best chess software programs, that any professional player or aficionado can use on a home computer, are going to meet in a direct battle to determine the best of the best in the field.

The eight participants include the defending champion Houdini, the vice champion Komodo, the top open source program Stockfish, as well as the challengers Fire, Ginkgo, Chiron, Andscacs, and Fizbo. Most engines come with a new version compared to last season. The group has added 150+ ELO cumulative increase compared to last season, making the Premier division of TCEC the strongest computer chess event in history.

The Premier Division of TCEC aka “The Final Eight” is starting this Tuesday February 13 at 19:00 CET and you can follow it on the official website and also on the Twitch video channel where viewers crossed the 1 million mark this month.

TCEC Season 11 Premier Division participants

Houdini The defending champion program is the only one that will use a version that is the same to last season. As the saying goes, “Never change a winning horse”, Robert Houdart will line up the same engine that won the title in S10 classical, took the silver in rapid, and the bronze in blitz.

Komodo Mark Lefler and Larry Kaufman bring a new version of Komodo in attempt to increase Komodo’s TCEC titles. Last season Komodo had speed problems at the beginning of every game and a performance limiting behavior in other phases, yet it reached second place and even won decisive games in the Superfinal. This year all has been fixed, speed will not be a problem, and more ELO has been added.

Stockfish Stockfish 9 was released just two weeks ago. However, the Stockfish team is always active and will line up even better version for TCEC Premier division. The participant will be a Stockfish dev with additional tweaking specific to the competition. The question that many ask, “Is this Stockfish better than Alpha Zero?”, the answer is very probably yes. Stockfish will not be limited to 1 GB hash, nor it will have time limitations as it did in the match with Alpha Zero, resulting in ELO difference in the hundreds. Additionally, Stockfish 9 has already added 60+ ELO on CCRL compared to Stockfish 8, while the correct setting of parameters in the submitted dev version will boost this to even more.

Fire Norm Schmidt, the author of Fire, is always active and always chasing the big three. This time he looks closer than ever to achieving a TCEC medal, as he brings his new version of Fire to TCEC, which will be ultimately released as Fire 7 after the competition. Fire 7 has been impressive at fast time control tests and everyone is looking forward to its performance in the classical time control

Ginkgo Frank Schneider brings a new Ginkgo, which is expected to be faster and slightly better than last year’s version. Ginkgo is a program that can always mess the plans of the other engines and brings very creative chess to the event. It is always a pleasure to watch it and is one of the most difficult engines to predict the score of.

Chiron Andrea Ubaldo Farina and the Italian engine Chiron is lining up a new version with more ELO points. Getting to the top positions will be difficult, still Chiron has a goal, staying above 6th place guarantees a spot among the Premier division engines next season, a feat that has huge merits in an event that is the strongest ever in computer chess.

Andscacs Coming from Andorra with a bang, Andscacs by Daniel José Queraltó stormed through Division 1 not leaving any doubts which is the strongest engine there. What will it do in the Premier Division? It is anyone’s guess and one of the most intriguing variables in the final eight.

Fizbo A number six engine on CCRL, Fizbo by Youri Matiounine is going to aim for the same or higher position on TCEC as well. Fizbo managed to oust Booot in a neck in neck fight in the First Division and is now set for the bigger challenge.

More about TCEC S11: Defenchess wins TCEC Division 4 / Fritz wins TCEC Division 3 / Jonny wins TCEC Division 2 / Andscacs wins TCEC Division 1 / TCEC facebook page

TCEC (Top Chess Engine Championship) a major international computer chess engine championship with strong participant line-up and long time control matches on high-end hardware, giving rise to very high-class chess. It is played strictly between computer chess engines created by different programmers.

TCEC server specification for Season 11 is:

CPUs: 44 Cores -> 2 x Intel Xeon E5 2699 v4 @ 2.8 GHz
Motherboard: Supermicro X10DRL-i
SSD: Crucial CT250M500 240 GB
Chassis: Supermicro
OS: Windows Server 2012 R2

One of TCEC’s conventions is that chess software should almost never play from the usual starting position. The reasons for that are simply that some engines—not all, but some—tend to follow repetitive patterns, resulting in a disproportionate number of games in its favorite opening. TCEC prefers to see engines deserving the title of ‘champion’ to play and prevail from a variety of opening systems. Thus, TCEC brings experts in the field select openings – Nelson Hernandez (USA), Jeroen Noomen (NED), Nikolaos Konstantakis (GRE) – months ahead of time, before they know who will be playing them. This human element does introduce a small degree of luck, yet the best programs have invariably risen to the top.

TCEC runs 24/7 until all games have been played. One game is played at a time – the next one starts automatically. In 2018, the overall format of TCEC changed to a five division league system with promotion and relegation. For more details, see

The winner of the Season will be the TCEC Grand Champion. The TCEC Grand Champions. Here are the winners so far : Season 11: –tbd– | Season 10: Houdini | Season 9: Stockfish |Season 8: Komodo | Season 7: Komodo | Season 6: Stockfish | Season 5: Komodo | Season 4: Houdini | Season 3: N/A | Season 2: Houdini | Season 1: Houdini

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