Hardware limits in the WCCC

International Computer Games Association
Harvey Williamson
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 12:26 am

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Harvey Williamson » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:34 pm

Below is Mark Uniacke's response to Rémi. He emailed him earlier but asked me to post it here so that his position is known. He will not be entering into any further debate about it since his time is limited.
Hi Rémi,

I am not member of the CCC group or an active reader of the CCC forum but I have heard about these negative comments. In the one post I was told about I saw Vincent Diepeveen claimed he spoke to me online and that the proposal of a hardware limit came from me - both of these claims by Vincent are a complete fabrication. I prefer to not get dragged into all the mud slinging that goes on in these forums since it drains the energy from what is important but I needed to point that out to you in case you were under the wrong impression.

I have to say that if the production of violent anger is the driving force in changing decisions then we have mob rule and intimidation. Surely these are not the attributes on which to change or make decisions.

The first I heard of this hardware limit idea was when I receieved the general email from Johanna Hellemons about the proposal. I did respond in favour of it and I remain in favour of it. Judging from what you have said perhaps that is enough to get me lynched by some? :-)

I don't think we can base a decision change on the fact one or two programmers may want to invest huge resources into expensive hardware since were we to do that the emphasises would be on any other programmers to do the same if they to want to compete. Otherwise this could be seen as being akin to someone trying to buy the title.

What is the purpose of the WCCC?

Surely it is to have a competition between the world's top chess systems for the title of World Champion. If the disparity between the hardware of each "competitor" is so great that the chances of success for most competitors is almost nil it no longer becomes a competition but instead a procession.

Recently we have seen the long standing Paderborn tournament cancelled because there were insufficient entries. Why would this be?

I believe it is because the overwhelming majority of people see little chance of competing on a level playing field because the hardware being used by the strongest programs is now so much faster than the other potential competitors that the race is practically run before it has started.

Contrary to popular opinion selling chess software makes a very limited income and certainly not one that can allow us to compete in a hardware race. The same is true of nearly all the other commercial authors let alone the amateur ones. Perhaps those in academia might be able to harness the necessary resources but for the majority it is only a dream.

In the last two tournaments alone, in terms of hardware, even though we were on faster h/w than many others we were about a factor of 5 behind some other contestants. Eventually we like apparently everyone else has to ask if it is worth the cost and effort of trying to maintain a presence in an expensive losing "hardware arms race".

We enter each competition with the target to win it, if that no longer becomes a possibility then we have to ask what is the point of entering. Apparently the same is true of the vast majority of other programmers since they are voting with their feet and not entering these tournaments.

We are willing to give up our h/w advantage to see a more level playing field since I believe that makes for a more exciting and competitive competition. Some disagree with me and prefer no limits but in the knowledge that competition is stifled.

I think Formula-1 racing is a good example with commonality to our situation. Each team can select their own driver, engine, chassis and other components within a framework of rules. That framework is reviewed on an on-going basis just as the ICGA has undertaken to review this decision. The purpose of the framework in F1 is to make the competition more competitive and allow more teams to compete than would be the case if there were no limits. Surely this is a good thing?

Best wishes,
Mark

Rémi Coulom
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:31 pm
Contact:

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Rémi Coulom » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:38 pm

Harvey Williamson wrote:Below is Mark Uniacke's response to Rémi. He emailed him earlier but asked me to post it here so that his position is known. He will not be entering into any further debate about it since his time is limited.
Thanks Harvey. Great that he made his answer public. This was my reply to his message:
Hi Mark,

Thank you very much for your reply.

When I sent that e-mail to programmers in favor of the rule, I did not really expect that programmers in favor of the rule would change their minds. It was more like a diplomatic attempt at establishing communication.

I would like to add that I am not strongly opposed to the rule itself. I am opposed to the method that was used for deciding it. I feel that the tensions created by this decision are hurting the tournament. They hurt more than the decision helps.

The situation is very frustrating for programmers against the rule, because they are not aware of a single programmer in favor of the rule. They know that they exist, but they don't even know how many they are.

The big problem is a problem of communication. I am working to try to promote communication, not to promote a particular rule.

If, instead of the first letter he sent, David had simply asked programmers: "I am concerned about the future of the WCCC, what do you suggest in order to improve it ?", I am sure it would have lead to much more productive discussions. When I asked this very question in the ICGA forum, Munjong Kolss answered: "This is a good question, one that maybe should have been asked long ago!"

We will need an open debate about the question, and I hope to meet you in Spain to talk about it.

Thanks again,

Rémi

pijl
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 4:06 pm

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by pijl » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:25 am

Hi Mark,

Even though you indicated you will stay out of this discussion I feel obliged to respond.
As you've put it in your message, a main reason for programmers to stay away from the WCCC is the amount of money and time it costs to participate in the Hardware race. But in fact only few potential participants are participating in that race and most just don't care. Super computers have entered in most editions of the WCCC, so this is nothing new.

Cost is a major issue though, but hardware costs is only one component of that. We all know that this is the lesser one. The money needed for transport, hotel, restaurant food etc for the duration of the WCCC will nowadays be more than the costs of a nice quadcore machine. And then I'm not even counting the value of the vacation days that you will have to spend on the tournament.

In the case of the Paderborn tournament it is mostly a matter of wrong scheduling of the tournament. Who wants to participate in a computer chess tournament between Christmas and New Year? I'm not, and with me quite a few others. I don't think hardware or Rybka supremacy (even when combined) had anything to do with that.

Finally, imposing a limit also means that there must be an effective way to enforce that limit. With the current proposal there seems not to be one, except by forcing everybody to bring in their machines to the playing location where it can be inspected. As this will certainly be a major problem for many participants that is not acceptable, so remote play will be allowed. But consider this: If people are willing to spend thousands of euros/pounds/dollars on their tournament hardware, do you expect full honesty when they're asked about the number of cpu cores in their tournament machine(s)?

Richard

Computer Chess Fan.
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:38 am

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Computer Chess Fan. » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:38 am

Harvey Williamson wrote: I don't think we can base a decision change on the fact one or two programmers may want to invest huge resources into expensive hardware since were we to do that the emphasises would be on any other programmers to do the same if they to want to compete.
That is nonsense.
A 5 node cluster made of QX6600 Quads, that means 20 cores, is much cheaper than a 2x4=8 core Skulltrail.
The first is not allowed the second(the expensive) is.

Also does Mark thinks everyone has the money to buy an 8 core Skulltrail? So why he doesn't complain about the current 8-core limit that is unfair to those who can't buy an 8 core computer as prices are not yet cheap, and to make the limit 4 cores as this is the standard today that everyone can buy? Is it because he has an 8 core computer?
I like Mark, but what he says here is completely hypocritical. Sorry for that.
Surely it is to have a competition between the world's top chess systems for the title of World Champion. If the disparity between the hardware of each "competitor" is so great that the chances of success for most competitors is almost nil it no longer becomes a competition but instead a procession.
This is done in every sport. This is actually life.
I have never heard a tournament of any sport the participants to suggest to limit the resources of the other participants because they can't compete against them.
In the last two tournaments alone, in terms of hardware, even though we were on faster h/w than many others we were about a factor of 5 behind some other contestants.
Even more serious nonsense here.
If he proposes that Rybka's 40-core cluster is 5 times faster(effectively on playing Chess)than Hiarcs' 8-core Skulltrail, then his admiration for Rybka's programmer skills is way beyond any imagination.
No way Rybka's cluster is more than x2 than a 8core Skulltrail.

And BTW why Mark isn't complaining for the unfair advantage he has with his expensive Skulltrail from participants who use only 1 core on a single CPU engine or from duals?
We enter each competition with the target to win it, if that no longer becomes a possibility then we have to ask what is the point of entering.
This is really funny. I can't win so lower the competition in order to be able to win.
Sorry, but Mark is not in his best shape as it seems.

Harvey Williamson
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 12:26 am

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Harvey Williamson » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:46 am

Who is Computer Chess fan? - Remi are you going to allow anonymous posters into this discussion?

Rémi Coulom
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:31 pm
Contact:

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Rémi Coulom » Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:10 am

Harvey Williamson wrote:Who is Computer Chess fan? - Remi are you going to allow anonymous posters into this discussion?
I don't like it. I clearly don't have the motivation to spend time and energy in moderating the forum. If some participants become really annoying, I'll restrict posting in the ICGA forum to ICGA members posting with their real names. I hope it will not be necessary.

Computer Chess fan: please try to show a little more respect.

Rémi

Computer Chess Fan.
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:38 am

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Computer Chess Fan. » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:13 pm

Rémi Coulom wrote:
Harvey Williamson wrote:Who is Computer Chess fan? - Remi are you going to allow anonymous posters into this discussion?
I don't like it. I clearly don't have the motivation to spend time and energy in moderating the forum. If some participants become really annoying, I'll restrict posting in the ICGA forum to ICGA members posting with their real names. I hope it will not be necessary.

Computer Chess fan: please try to show a little more respect.

Rémi
OK i retract all the characterizations, but my points remain.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:08 pm

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Gian-Carlo Pascutto » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:27 pm

Mark Uniacke wrote: The first I heard of this hardware limit idea was when I receieved the general email from Johanna Hellemons about the proposal.
That's interesting. One of your team members has mentioned the idea several times shortly before it was put into effect. You did not know about this?
We are willing to give up our h/w advantage to see a more level playing field since I believe that makes for a more exciting and competitive competition.
What h/w advantage are you giving up? Your team has a very fast 8 core machine and you have used it in the past. The rule is very convenient in this respect.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:08 pm

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Gian-Carlo Pascutto » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:31 pm

Harvey Williamson wrote:Who is Computer Chess fan? - Remi are you going to allow anonymous posters into this discussion?
Well, there are supposedly many more people IN FAVOR of the rule, and they have not identified themselves. How is this different?

Gian-Carlo Pascutto
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:08 pm

Re: Hardware limits in the WCCC

Post by Gian-Carlo Pascutto » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:47 pm

pijl wrote:
Rémi Coulom wrote: It seems that the only way to apply the rule in practice is to allow remote play and trust participants. If you have a better idea, please say so.
So there is a new controversial rule, but no enforcement will be in place? Then basically the rule does not exist.
Richard.
It's a good way to make everybody happy...

Post Reply