The Top Chess Engine Championship TCEC is going to start in about 10 days time. And it is going to be amazing! TCEC S17 will have a solid hardware upgrade, a new adjusted format and a new structure, a dedicated news website with a merchandising section and more.
Hardware upgrades for TCEC CPU server
Season 17 and consecutive seasons will enjoy a solid hardware upgrade. A server of up to 176 threads will now be available to the traditional CPU engines. This will be the strongest machine on which a major computer chess championship has been played so far.
The full parameters are:
CPUs: 4 x Intel Xeon 4xE5-4669v4
Cores: 88 physical / 176 threads
RAM: 128 GB DDR4 (available to engines)
RAM: 1 TB (available to 6-pieces Syzygy)
HDD: 15 GB total
OS: CentOS Linux release 7.7.1908 (Core)
You read right: instead of SSD, the Syzygy tablebases will be cached directly in the RAM for faster access. The switch to Linux is going to provide more stability for the engines and additional speed in terms of Nps. With Linux the TCEC admin can also accept source code submissions for engines.
For the sake of comparison to see just how much of an upgrade this is, here are the earlier specifications:
Seasons 9 to 16 had the following hardware structure in place:
CPUs: 2 x Intel Xeon E5 2699 v4 @ 2.8 GHz
Cores: 44 physical
Motherboard: Supermicro X10DRL-i
RAM: 64 GB DDR4 ECC
SSD: Crucial CT250M500 240 GB
OS: Windows Server 2012 R2
Prior to Season 9 this server was used, as from Season 6:
CPUs: 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2689 @ 3300 MHz
Cores: 16 physical
CPU Coolers: 2 x Corsair H80i
Motherboard: Asus Z9PE-D8 WS
RAM: 64 GB Kingston KVR16R11D4K4/32 Reg/ECC
PSU: Corsair AX 760
SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 128 GB
Chassis: Silverstone Raven RV03B-WA
OS: Windows 7 Professional
The upgrade from 16 to 44 to 88 cores through the different seasons is in line with TCEC’s main goal: to let computer chess authors have access to stronger and stronger hardware in order to help develop further their chess engines.
This upgrade would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship support of Noobpwnftw (Bojun Guo: a huge thank you!), who has provided and guaranteed the hardware for the next two years.
GPU server to be upgraded
TCEC is committed to provide similar conditions to all playing engines. Since the entrance of the Neural Network Engines in Season 13, the hardware balance between varying systems has been an ongoing issue, and a matter in which TCEC has constantly striven for the fairest solution within its budget. To match the traditional server CPU upgrade, there is a GPU server upgrade coming early in 2020. The details of this upgrade will be announced at a later date once confirmed.
TCEC S17 format
The grand champion of Season 17 will once again be determined in the TCEC Superfinal: a 100 games head to head clash with a book by Jeroen Noomen. This match will be played by the top 2 engines of the Premier Division. However, dictated by the current level of play of the engines and the upgrades in the hardware, the way to the Superfinal will be slightly modified.
Premier Division: the Premier Division (Div P) will be expanded from 8 to 10 engines. These will be the top 6 engines from the previous season and 4 qualifiers from the Div P entrance playoff
The way to Div P: Season 17 will have two competitions, depending on what hardware the engines need: CPU and GPU.
The AB/CPU competition will start with a Qualification league (invitational, variable number of participants), League 2 (16 participants) and League 1 (16 participants). Promotions in the AB (Minimax, aka “traditional”) Leagues go as in Season 16.
The NeuralNetwork/GPU competition will have just League 1 (invitational, 16 participants max).
As the number of engines in both competitions differ, so will the resulting qualification spots for the playoff. 4 engines from the respective Leagues 1 of CPU and 2 engines from the GPU will enter the playoff to determine which 4 engines qualify to be promoted to the Premier Division.
The Premier Division expansion is mainly due to the fact that there are enough engines that play at similar strength to form such division, thus giving place to more games of balanced strength and different playing styles.
More upgrades coming
There are more upgrades coming in Season 17. Next to its public wiki at wiki.chessdom.org TCEC will have an official news website, which will be used as a main hub for articles, news, videos, and game analysis. The long awaited merchandising will also be launched together with cool new graphics from the esteemed professional TCEC designer Santiago Mendez.
TCEC S17 timeline
This is the tentative timeline for TCEC Season 17. Note that all dates are estimates and changes can (and will) be made when needed, moving start dates a few days earlier or later in the schedule.
Dec 29, 2019: Submission deadline for the Qualification group for traditional engines
Dec 30, 2019: Testing for Qualification group
Jan 1, 2020: Start of the Qualification group
Jan 1, 2020: Launch of TCEC merchandising section
Jan 3, 2020: Launch of the official TCEC news website
Jan 14, 2020: League 2 for traditional engines
Jan 30, 2020: League 1 for traditional engines
Feb 15, 2020: League 1 (Qualification) for NN and Hybrid engines
Feb 25, 2020: Div P entrance playoff
Feb 29, 2020: Premier Division
March 31, 2020: Superfinal
More details to follow asap
Not all details of the season have been clarified, yet we were eager to share what has been confirmed. The TCEC team is confident that these latest developments TCEC S17 will bring are a huge leap ahead and will result in a yet higher octave of fascination for modern engine chess. Stay tuned for more info and enjoy the holiday season!