- Organization Odyssey 2001 -




My name is Thorsten Czub and I am doing computer-chess tournaments for a long time. It started in 1978. My tournaments were private, for fun. We were children and all had dedicated chess-computers. We took our machines into the chess club, and also had meetings where we let them play in a tournament against each others.

We tried to get the strongest machines, I remember those days with senator-chess, MK1 and Novags Constellation 3.6 and the Mark5 and the Mephisto1 etc. very good. Or this Super-System3. Some of them had Karpov on the box. Some spoke (Boris Dimplomat) and some American machines really looked strange and were expensive: Sandy Encore or Fidelity Champion.

It was a very nice time. I heard about a computer chess magazine in german and read it. It's name was Computer-Schach and Spiele. Dieter Steinwender and Frederic Friedel were publishers. I wrote horrible long reader letters and we had many telephone calls. I thought: these people are near to the sources, they know everything. It was naive of course. They hadn't the time to test anything themselves. But in opposite to us customers they were in contact to the programmers.

I liked Frederic's articles. I remember especially the article when he visited Dave Kittinger and wrote about the Super-Constellation and its implemented intelligence, he called PSH-strategy. As we all maybe remember, Super-Constellation was able to sacrifice a piece or give pawns for a good position and an attack. This seemed to be hardcoded, as if the machine followed somehow primitive if-clauses. But the effect was great. 3 or 4 pieces of superconny hung, but you were not allowed to take any, otherwise you would be mated or other evil things happened. Great playing-style.

I thought: this machine is strong! I took it to my chess-club where some strong players (from my point of view in those times !! :-)) played.

Our coach Wolfgang Prueske did us kids a favour and played against Super-Constellation. To my surprise, he wanted to play blind. While talking with us about soccer and chess, he killed Super-Constellation as if the machine has no idea about chess.

When the machines grow stronger, I always brought one of them, from time to time, into the chess club to see how strong chess players can cope with it. One of them was my friend Bernd Kohlweyer, today an International Master. But - it was a disaster. For the machines. There was NONE that was able to win against Bernds Petrosian-like playing-style. Even later when the PC's made their way, Bernd was still to succesful for them.

It seems some players kill the machines much better than their ELO-rating would suggest.

First I played with software on my Atari ST. This machine was not loud (it had no harddisc) but Psion-Chess for Atari ST was really a nice program. With the PC conquer the computer-market, I had to say good-bye to the silent Atari and had to buy those ugly and rarely working PC's, until today you get disturbed while doing something with blue-screens when something crashes and many many incompatible behaviours. But for computer chess you have no alternative. Thats the silly thing about PC's.

In 1985 I wrote many reader letters to Computerschach and Spiele. One of my first tournaments that was published into that magazine was, when I remember it right in 1987 about a tournament I had outplayed. In the title-story "A star is born" I let 5 chess-computers:
  • Leonardo Maestro 6 Mhz
  • Novag Forte 6 Mhz
  • Rebel 5.0
  • Turbostar KSO
  • Excellence 4.2 Mhz
play 10 games against each other on tournament level 40/120, that made 100 games and much work.

Dieter called it "CSS-Computerchess-tournament", and I was a writer for that magazine from that day.

The games were really interesting. It came to nice knight-invasions when Leonardo Maestro played. I called this the SSS, German for Sci-Sys-Knight-Invasion because at those times Saitek was named Sci-Sys. The article was 7 pages long and I was in good mood for the future.

A few years later I build my own computerchess-shop, called "Schachcomputerwelt", in english: "chesscomputerworld", and had it at least 3 years. A friend of me came one day and said: "Don't you want to have your own computer-chess-shop ?".

I said: ok - what do I have to do. Nothing special he said, you know about the programs and the dedicated chess computers, and I have the money and the building. Let's work on it. I had a budget of 25.000 DM and was asked to write down a wish list which dedicated chess computers or PC's I would like to buy. Can you imagine this? Somebody comes to you and asks you to work in your hobby area and you can start with 25.000 DM budget to fullfill all your wishes?

Ha - it seems in computerchess many of my wishes have been come true! Magnificant! This was a great time, cause I was able to talk the whole day with fans and freaks about my hobby, as a job. People were able to come into the computerchess department and to play against the computers, my day was full with telephoning and fullfilling the wishes of other people about computerchess. This was really nice !

But I also met some business-men and their own "playing-games and rules". I had no target to make money out of selling dedicated chess computers or software myself. So my work can be seen as idealistic. In meeting those business-men I learned that they do not have the same targets. They need to make money out of it and sometimes have to behave cruel, with law-suites and those things.

I stopped writing for Computerschach and Spiele and I published my own magazine, "Schachcomputerwelt". This was an idealistic effort. I did not want to make money out of it. In fact the whole computerchess-company I worked in, was not designed to make much profit. It was more to enjoy computerchess. I wanted fun, and wanted to enjoy computerchess and friendship with others, we saw it as a hobby, and had meetings where we exchanged experience, machines and games, ideas and wishes. It was a social-event for us. It was more than a hobby. Part of our lifes. But for the business men it was making money. And they did not behaved fair. They lied towards us. And why should you enjoy companionship of people who only want to misuse you and your wishes ?!

After 3 years I needed a new job and began working for Schach Niggemann, a big computerchess shop in Germany. I learned to like Guenter Niggemann, the owner of Schach Niggemann, when we met each other during a game of chess at the computerchess-championship in munich 1993 that was won by Hiarcs/Genius. In one round I operated Mchess and had to play against the Sparc-Module of the Saitek machine. Guenter Niggemann operated this machine. I always wanted to meet Guenter when the sparc-module played Na3-c2-a3 and moves like this. Because I wanted to see Guenters face when the Sparc-module did these moves. I do not remember the game exact, but I am sure it did strange knight moves like this and so I felt very confident watching this.

Another day I operated Mchess again, we had to play against Cenius. This was a classic game: Genius-Mchess! Richard Lang and Ossi sat on the other side of the board, so it was funny. As usual it gave a discussion about the way chess programs should be programmed and how to play accurate and best chess in computerchess. Ossi Weiner was for the accurate and non-speculative way, and said so. Richard said nothing. Mainly Ossi and I had an argument. One of the Kiebitzes arround the board must have been - as he once told me - Stefan Meyer Kahlen (the programmer of Shredder, one of the strongest chess program in the moment, and world-computer-chess-champion), who wondered what the hell we are doing there while operating.

Mchess lost. And the argument between Ossi and me had to wait until 1995 in Paderborn, to be spoken out again in public :-))

But I saw that Richard and Ossi's "development" of Genius had come to an end. There was no development. It was a dead-end street and they needed new ideas. As we all know today, they were not able to make any progress, and today Shredder is under Ossi's contract and Ossi switched horses.

Munich 1993 was THE championship for Mark Uniacke and Hiarcs. He was amateur before, and not so many people knew about his very strong chess program. I loved Hiarcs in those days as much as Mchess. But mchess had a weak peak in its life, it was so full of knowledge that it was too slow and was outsearched. Hiarcs on the other hand killed the opponents. His father was with Mark, and sat proud next to Mark. It was a sensation when Mark won 2 titles. And I remember him and Ossi making some deals, to sell Hiarcs. There were also negotiations between Saitek and Uniacke, to bring Hiarcs into the Saitek Sparc-module, but Mr. Winkler did not wanted to pay enough for a world chess champion, so the deal did not come to real. It would have been a nice deal, since the Sparc-Module was compatible to the machine Mark used for programming and winning the tounament in Munich, it was a Sparc-Machine too.

So the world-chess-champion-module could have been in the shops direct after the championship. I remember Frans Morsch 1993. He was - of course disapointed - and Frederic tried to help Frans not to be too much disapointed. There were also some fights at the tournament. And strange adjudications by the tournament director Jaap van den Herik. But - this seems to be the usual thing when it is about titles and money.

Computerchess is a part of my life. It makes fun to watch the programs play, to discuss the games and to meet the nice people. There are many ugly things, but ... overall ... there is friendship and social exchange and it is international. I think chess players and computer chess people learn about each other when exchanging the experiences. So I am very pleased that Ed made it possible that normal chess players tell us THEIR experiences while replaying the games.

It has always been nice to exchange different point of views. We can both learn, the ones about chess, the others about the history of computerchess and the history of the chessprograms.

Even when the strongest chess player in the world is lost against a computer, the development of chess programs will continue, as a sport. Just for fun. It is unimportant IMO if all human-beeings win or do not win against programs. There is a competition of the makers to make the strongest chess program, no matter how and why. I do not believe this will end because no human can win against the machines. People want stronger chess programs, and as long they want them, they get them.

People want faster cars too, although it often makes no sense to have a fast car, because you don't find the highway to drive that speed. But people want those cars, so they were build. I think it is the same with chess programs.

Thorsten Czub

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