Reports | June 01, 2007 6:30

[lang_nl]Rybka-team daagt FIDE uit voor $100,000[/lang_nl][lang_en]Rybka: $100,000 challenge to FIDE[/lang_en]

[lang_nl]Tijdens deze 'tour' kan ik nauwelijks zelf het schaaknieuws volgen, laat staan erover schrijven. Maar ik kan natuurlijk wat uitzonderingen maken, bijvoorbeeld wanneer ik een open brief ontvang van Vasik Rajlich, de programmeur van het sterkste computerprogramma ter wereld, Rybka. Hij daagt namelijk met Rybka de FIDE uit voor $100,000 voor een match tegen de winnaar van de 'Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007'. "The 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." Op zijn zachtst gezegd is Rajlich verbaasd over vele aspecten van de "Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge" tussen de programma's Deep Junior en Deep Fritz, die zal worden gehouden in Elista tijdens de eindfase van de huidige Kandidatenmatches. En hij heeft groot gelijk natuurlijk. Fritz behoort bij de computers niet meer tot de top 3 van de wereld en Junior komt ternauwernood nog in de top 10 voor. Sinds 1,5 jaar voert Rybka met grote voorsprong de ratinglijsten aan. Het lijkt me dat met deze uitdaging het Rybka-team (terecht) wil aantonen dat de "The Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge", tussen twee Chessbase-programma's, niets meer is dan een commercieel spectakel en bovenal een farce.[/lang_nl][lang_en]During the "tour", I'm hardly able to keep up with the chess news myself, let alone write about it. But I can make some exceptions of course, for instance when I receive an open letter from Vasik Rajlich, the programmer of the strongest computer program in the world, Rybka. He's offering a $100,000 challenge from Rybka to FIDE, who will be represented by the winner of the Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007. "The 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." To put it mildly, Rajlich is surprised about many aspects of the "Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge" between the programs Deep Junior and Deep Fritz, being held in Elista during the final phase of the current Candidates Matches. And he's right of course; Fritz is not in the top 3 of computer programs anymore and Junior is to be found somewhere deep down in the top 10. Rybka is leading the computer rating lists by a huge margin for about 1,5 years now. It seems to me that with the challenge the Rybka team is (rightfully) trying to prove that the "The Ultimate Computer Chess Challenge", between two Chessbase programs, is nothing more than a commercial spectacle and most importantly a farce.[/lang_en]

Rybka $100,000 challenge to FIDE

(Open letter)

Dear Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & members of FIDE,

first, let me start by commending you for your entry into computer chess with the organization of the ?¢‚ǨÀúUltimate Computer Chess Challenge 2007' [1]. 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 [2]. 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 in seven of them. [3] 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 ?¢‚Ǩ?ìWorld Computer Chess Championship?¢‚Ǩ? 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 13/24 or better to win the match. The prize fund of $100,000 should be a winner-takes-all, loser-pays-all proposition. The remaining details can be worked out in private.

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

[2]CEGT rating list
CCRL rating list
CSS rating list
SSDF rating list
15th IPCCC 2005, 8th CCT 2006, 6th CSVN 2006, 26th Dutch Championship 2006, 14th WCCC 2006 16th IPCCC 2006, 9th CCT 2007, 7th CSVN 2007

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Titu's picture


Note that

"with Rybka giving a handicap of one point plus draw odds"


Peter's picture

It's true that Topalov had agreed not to participate in Mexico in case he would loose his title to Kramnik but perhaps FIDE should have amended the system back then. Kramnik is getting a rematch if he does not win in Mexico whereas Topalov was neither granted a place nor the opportunity to qualify for an 8 - player tournament.
About Kasparov refusing to play Shirov. I think in fact the opposite is true. Shirov declined to play as the prize fund wasn't appropriate for a world championship match. This is not an unreasonable decision as such a match requires a long preparation, hiring seconds, etc. But Kasparov's score against Shirov is 17-0 which made it difficult to secure sponsorship when the outcome was so predictable. Why would Kasparov refuse to play Shirov anyway? Other players may have avoided a match or a rematch with Kasparov (Ponomariov, Shirov, Kramnik perhaps, IBM certnainly while Anand did not pursue the possibility of a rematch after his loss in 95) but Kasparov had always been willing to face any kind of opposition.

jon_malkov's picture

As an answer to Peter.... Yes, it is unjust by FIDE, I agree. I think that the match Rybka Fritz will never be allowed. It is strange how they play with Topalov also , calling them to Talin, later they will say no. It is obvious, FIDE is becoming more and more corrupted. I do not see a way out.
And how about the candidate matches? Why dont we see Mamedyarov or Radjabov??? Very very strange.

Peter's picture

Obviously this match will never happen as chessbase is well aware of RYBKA's superiority over it's own programs. RYBKA would crash Fritz, Shredder & Junior by a large margin. Certainly not the first unjust decision from FIDE. What about the fact that Topalov will not participate in Mexico though he won the previous WCC tournament while players such as Moro and Svidler are granted an automatic qualification?
The only way for RYBKA to get a serious match, either with a computer or a top human player would be to Join Chessbase or get the backing of a big corporation. Still Kramnik would rather face easier opposition such as FRITZ. We probably need a more fighting champion, in the Kasparov style, for such a match to take place. The only really interesting computer match would be RYBKA v HYDRA but that is also not likely to take place.

Shr0pshire's picture

Please let us know about any further updates. I wish Rybka would be allowed to compete, and I find it funny that they are so confident they are willing to give odds.

About time some chess players are giving odds again. :)

george's picture

unfortunately, it is always the son of the boss who gets the top job! but it's ok... we still have the right to use rybka. and it seems stronger than the rest. They all beat me easily though...

Xmas's picture

Not quite. Consider the reports by Arno Nickel on the Freestyle tournaments held on Playchess. Each of those articles made it clear which engine was the favorite.

mehlman's picture

So, for now the most interesting question is: will ChessBase publish this letter as well? ;-)

Matt Helfst's picture

Yes, surely Vasik should be granted his request to have the computer match in Mexico. Of course with FIDE you can never predict the future, so we will see what comes of this...

Frost's picture

Rybka is clearly better then both Deep Junior and Deep Fritz. And the requist should be granted(yet probably won't). I am also amazed at how prominant a role the Deep Junior v Deep Fritz is in the Candidates Matches articles, considiring its completly pointless, as Deep Junior "thinks" further ahaid and faster then Deep Fritz, although Rybka could still(of cource) crush them both.

Bala's picture

Chessbase is being sissy. Does not have guts to even utter about rybka on their website while protraying to be an rational site for chess news.

Garrick's picture

Dat stom gedoe van machine tegen mens is me een beetje zat. Een machine heeft een prijs!!! Een mens is priceless!!!

peter's picture

@ Xmas Hey, I played that guy last week on Sardinia! Arno Nickel, from Berlin. :)

peter's picture

By the way I have a problem at the moment - I cannot upload (ftp). My sidebar as disappeared :( Hopefully I can restore things soon.

roger64's picture

Chessbase site keeps mum about it. They like to gossip sometimes...but not always. ;-)

By the way, did Rybka creator published bank guarantees for his 100 000 dollars challenge? Without this, it could be considered like a publicity stunt.

Anywaqy, longlife Rybka..

Felix's picture

"The only really interesting computer match would be RYBKA v HYDRA but that is also not likely to take place."

If Hydra would have any chance against Rybka, they would ask for a match, but obviously Hydra isn't as strong as it should be... so they stopped participating in computer chess tournaments, too.

Maybe we should ally with Topalov ("we want to play in Mexico!") ;)

someone's picture

mercy! jon_malkov you should think before opening your mouth.

There was a qualification process called world cup that Mamedyarov and Radjabov played but failed to qualify. Too bad. you lose you are out. How corrupted!

As fot Topalov, we are all sorry about what happened, but when he signed a contract to play with Kramnik he knew that the loser does not play in Mexico. He could refuse, or actually insist for the loser to participate (Kramnik before the match would also support him). After signing.. too bad for him. Nothing to do with FIDE.

And by the way. Wasn't Kasparov that did not play Shirov despite he had qualified because there was no funding? The same can be said by FIDE for the computer match. (Although for this issue I am with Rybka people).

jon_malkov's picture

OK someone, I see you do not like to see attractive chess and that you do not admit that there might be a possibility Kramnik commanded the parade and fired a whole committee in Elista. At least we agree that something smells bad in FIDE. Was Kok the right solution? Will Global chess be?

someone's picture

I love attractive chess and actually I am a Topalov fun (although my real idol is Shirov).

But I am also a bit realist. Mamed and Radjabov did not qualify. How could they play? Who would FIDE take out? Do you think the rest players would accept (or that they should)?

As for Topalov... He pays his own arrogance. He did lose clearly the match (even if he got benefit from the whole appeal case by bonus +1). I am neither saying he was wrong to appeal, nor that he got the point unfairly. Kramnik did not appear in game 5 so he should pay for this. But similarly, Topalov wanted the loser of the match to be excluded from next circle and now he pays the consequences.

I did not say that something smells bad in FIDE, by the way (the corrupted comment was ironic if you read carefully). I do not think that FIDE is doing great either (improvments are welcomed), but this is the case for all inetrnational federations (is FIFA or FIBA any better? they just have more money..).

someone's picture


The prize for the world championship that was offered to Shirov was very small, I think (the loser) would take less than the amount of money that the loser of the qualification match took (i.e. kramnik)...

Ofcourse Kasparov couldn't find (good) sponsors. He had (at least) 2 reasons to avoid playing Shirov.

(a) Not enough money (more money if he plays Kramnik)

(b) He had not play for the championship since 1995 (against Anand). There was no proper qualification process (the match Kramnik-Shirov was a bit ad-hoc), and the validity of his title was declining (since fide organized a regular circle with qualification). Being a bit arogant, he wanted to beat the toughest opponent to prove himself worthy. He considered Shirov too easy for this.

Now as Topalov is concerned, I would love to see him playing, but I bet that if FIDE accepts him, there will be several players that would protest (and possibly reasonably) and in particular I am sure that Kramnik will withdraw. Fide does not want to bring chess in chaos (despite what people believe) and thus they will avoid adding Topa (unless a miracle happens and Kramnik agrees).

Peter's picture

So we agree on that Shirov was in fact too easy for Kasparov. Kasparov did pick the only player who had a real chance of beating him in a long match. Even Anand has a poor record against Kasparov and hasn't beaten him in a classical game since 95.
About Topalov I also think that FIDE wont give in and risk being sued by any of the other participants though I wouldn't expect anyone to actually withdraw and miss this opportunity, including the financial benefit. Certainly not Kramnik, who will be getting his rematch anyway and didn't withdraw in Elista when some decisions were really unfair towards him.
In addition, if Topalov is allowed to play we will be facing the paradoxical situation where he will be rooting for 2 players to win ( Himself & Kramnik) as Fide rules state that Kramnik will play Topalov if he wins Mexico. Thus if Topalov doesn't perform well in Mexico he could, once he can no longer win 1st place, put a lesser fight against Kramnik and do his best to beat who ever is leading the field then, possibly Anand or Aronian.

someone's picture

The fact that he was easier opponent does not mean that he shouldn't get the match. Kasparov did avoid the match (not of fear of losing) and this is a fact. It is really unfair for Shirov and for the ethics of sports.

According to the argument of selecting the most difficult opponent, Kramnik should have chosen to play with Shirov (rather than with Kasparov that he had positive score or Leko that qualified). But still I cannot hear anyone saying that Kramnik chicken out of a match with Shirov. Why? Because Shirov didn't qualify. The same way Kramnik didn't qualify to play Kasparov and he shouldn't have got this match.

Kramnik has FIDE on his hands. If he withdraws from their circle, FIDE is again complely lost. No credit to their circles. Particularly if Kramnik is justified to withdraw (look how he made them to give him a rematch whatever the result of Mexico). Having said this, as a chess fun, I would love to see Topalov playing.

As for Topalov rooting for Kramnik (in your hypothetical senario that they let him play but his losing) is a big problem, but similarly it is a problem now that he can "choose" his opponent.

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