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White & Black Challenge

Engine chess, like Freestyle chess, has been plagued by an extremely high draw rate for some time now, and there has been much discussion about how to remedy the situation. Some things have been tried out. Not all suggestions could and can be easily implemented with the currently available server or tournament software on InfinityChess.

A popular suggestion is to play from predefined interesting positions, something like in the TCEC championships or like in theme tournaments. In this sense, InfinityChess would also like to break new ground to revitalize our engine tournaments and then perhaps the freestyle tournaments as well.

It may be necessary to leave the widely analyzed main variants, in which both White and Black have very safe ways to draw, and choose such starting positions, in which the equalization for Black is more difficult to achieve. If Black succeeds in this, it can be chalked up as a success every time, while White has the claim to win one or the other game, which ensures movement and excitement in the tournament table. Hence the name: "White & Black Challenge".

Therefore, on Sunday, May 22, we want to start playing tournaments in which only the following game openings are allowed, with White and Black having some choice in how they open each of their games. Variety will be provided. The second test tournament will be on Tuesday, May 24, both tournaments hosted by Kevin (alias CumnorChessClub).

The following 12 positions are available for selection:


Position 1 - 1.e4 d5           [2.exd5] +0.81/40 - SF 15

Position 2 - 1.e4 a6           [2.d4]     +0.61/40 - SF 15

Position 3 - 1.e4 Nf6         [2.e5]      +0.77/40 - SF 15

Position 4 - 1.d4 g6           [2.e4]     +0.66/40 - SF 15

Position 5 - 1.d4 Nc6         [2.d5]     +0.86/40 - SF 15

Position 6 - 1.d4 c5           [2.d5]      +0.77/40 - SF 15

Position 7 - 1.c4 Nc6         [2.d4]     +0.65/40 - SF 15

Position 8 - 1.c4 d5           [2.cxd5]  +0.79/40 - SF 15

Position 9 - 1.c4 b6           [2.d4]      +0.61/40 - SF 15

Position 10 - 1.Nf3 b6       [2.e4]      +0.85/40 - SF 15

Position 11 - 1.Nf3 f5        [2.g3]      +0.78/40 - SF 15

Position 12 - 1.Nf3 h6       [2.e4]      +0.72/40 - SF 15

For each of White's possible opening moves (1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4 1.Nf3) Black has 3 answers to choose from.


All participants in these tournaments called "White & Black Challenge" must design their opening books in such a way that only these game starts are allowed, leaving them free to decide which of them they may favor or exclude for themselves for the entire tournament.

If you want, you can get a basic book with these first moves in the formats *.bix and *.ctg from me by email (mailto: arno[at]infinitiychess.com), but you can also download this ZIP FILE:

A practical advantage of limiting the default to only the first move is: from the 2nd move on, it is clear in each case (for the TD and for everyone) whether both players have opened correctly. If someone plays other than the allowed moves, the game is considered lost for him. By now, the tournaments are not elo-rated. The same time limits as usual will be used.

No matter which tournament system is used, we will ensure that each participant has the same number of white and black games.

All positions are chosen with respect that Stockfish 15 at depth 40 shows a white advantage between +0.60 and +0.90 for the second white move (see above). We are curious to see how these values will be expressed in the tournament statistics and which game starts the participants will favor. One should not overestimate the values, since they only represent snapshots and say nothing about how stable the indicated advantage is. Besides, it is a question of motivation and playing style of each participant how he starts the game and what he makes out of it. The result of a game is not determined by the choice of the first move.

Of course, it would be possible to choose other opening positions (and it may well be that we will do the same later), but we find it interesting to gain experience with these opening moves first, especially since they are less explored in game practice. There is a lot to discover, and creativity is needed. As said before, the engine values should not be overestimated; it depends on what you make out of it. Surprises in one direction or another are much more likely than with the main variants. And that should help a lot to liven up the game.

If there is enough interest in this new tournament idea, we will regularly hold more Engine tournaments with it and also announce a White & Black Challenge Engine Tournament (WBCET ) with cash prizes on Sunday 12th June.

However, only players who have participated in at least one test tournament beforehand and have completed all their games properly will be able to participate.


(TD JoJo, May 12, 2022)