An Open Letter and $100,000 challenge to FIDE President Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov

His Excellency
FIDE President Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov

May 31, 2007

Dear Mr. President,

First, let me start by commending you for your entry into computer chess with the organization of The Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007. Computer chess has seen dramatic improvements in the past few years. Some chess engines have progressed dramatically from the primitive beancounters of yesterday and I believe that our games too now qualify as art. Chess at this level inevitably attracts the attention of chess players all over the world.

Unfortunately, the lack of an open, formal qualification procedure for your event was disappointing, and your choice of the two opponents was downright bizarre. You have snubbed my program, Rybka, which leads every single computer chess rating list by a considerable margin at all time controls from blitz games to long tournament games [1]. In many cases the gap between Rybka and her nearest competitor is well over 100 Elo. None of this is anything particularly new – Rybka was released on December 4, 2005, and since then her smallest lead ever in any major rating list at any time control and on any hardware was 60 Elo. In addition to this, she has competed in all eight major international tournaments held since her first release and taken clear (unshared) first place in seven of them. [2] Rybka has also displayed her superiority in competitions against human players. It’s no wonder that Rybka is generally considered the undisputed strongest chess program in the world.

Some of the other aspects of the match also raise questions. Chessbase exclusively markets three of the world’s top ten engines, so it’s a curious coincidence that two of them will participate. Also curious is the involvement of the ICGA – after all, their own self-titled “World Computer Chess Championship” is being held on overlapping dates. This type of apparent division between insiders and outsiders runs counter to all principles of sport and fairness, and I call on you to uphold democratic FIDE norms in the organization of such events.

In the spirit of open competition, I am formally offering a $100,000 computer chess challenge from Rybka to FIDE, who will be represented by the winner of the Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007. My challenge consists of a 24 game match, at classical time controls, on unlimited hardware and with unlimited opening books, held at 2 games per day over twelve days, with Rybka giving a handicap of one point plus draw odds and thus requiring a score of 13 out of 24 or better to win the match. The prize fund of $100,000 should be a winner-takes-all, loser-pays-all proposition.

As the Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007 takes place during the Candidates Matches in Elista, it is appropriate that the winner’s match vs Rybka be played in Mexico between September 12 and October 1, 2007, during the FIDE World Chess Championship.

Gens una Sumus,

Vasik Rajlich
author of Rybka
FIDE International Master

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