CSc 180 -- Spring 2018
Intelligent Systems


Spring 2018 Tournament Results - "Newcular Chess"



The 17th Annual AI Strategy Game Contest took place March 26-28, 2018.
One former champion and one former Golden Hamster winner were in attendance.

The game this year was "Newcular Chess", which is a sort of reduced version
of chess, but with the ability to "explode" one's pieces.  "Explosions" take
out all pieces in the immediate vicinity.  The game is quite tactical, since
the ability to "explode" can lead to a variety of ways of attacking the
opponent's king.

This year there were 28 entrants.  Most programs used minimax with alpha-beta
pruning, and several used iterative deepening.  A few used more advanced
features such as history tables or killer move heuristic to enhance pruning
and increase search depth.  One program used bitmapped move generation, and
one used transposition tables to avoid repeating searches that had already
been performed.  Several students claimed that they couldn't beat their own
program.

A wide variety of languages were used, including Java, C++, C, C#, and Python.
Many of the programs searched 7 or 8 plies at the start of the game, extending
to 10 or more plies later in the game, despite the relatively high branching
factor in Newcular Chess.

As always, each match consisted of two games, so programs could lose individual
games along the way and still win by winning the most games within a group,
and then advancing to stronger and stronger groups.  The instructor also
competed with his program, named "Button".

The winning program was "Pepper", written by Chun Yue Leung.  "Pepper" got off
to a slow start, losing its first two games because of a rules misunderstanding.
As such, it barely made it through its first group.  However, once its author
fixed this bug, it went through the rest of the tournament undefeated, 16-0,
winning all of its remaining matches 2-0.  Pepper included transposition tables,
and killer move heuristic, and generally searched deeper than its opponents.

A surprise 2nd place finish was "Conor McGregor", written by Xin Goh.  Although
"Conor" didn't have as many advanced features as a couple of the programs that
finished below it, what it did have was a clean implementation free of any
subtle bugs that plagued a few entrants.  The third place finisher, "NYANC"
(written by Peter Yao), came the closest to beating Pepper in a game - actually
having a winning position but crashing with a segmentation fault.  NYANC was
very strong, but lost a few games due to such spurious bugs.

Several programs improved between day 1 and day 2.  "Randomat" added iterative
deepening, strengthening its endgame enough to make it into the final four.
"Baphomat" added alpha-beta pruning and improved its results.  Arguably the
the most noticeable improvements were in the program "Alkahest"; while it was
seeded quite high (4th), it had several bugs and lost six games on day 1.
Its author Marco Ruiz fixed the bugs between the two days, and it was able to
win 5 of its 6 games on day 2, ultimately finishing in a tie for 8th.  "Alkahest" thus
garnered the coveted "Golden Hamster" award.

Complete results are shown below, including results from prelims, rounds 2 and 3,
quarters, semis, finals, and all consolation rounds:

    PROGRAM      AUTHOR   FINAL   3   SEMI  2 QTR   1  PRE     TOTAL
--------------------------------------------------------------------
1.  Pepper       Leung   6-0 (4-0)    6-0     4-0      2-2     16-2
2.  ConorMcGregr Goh     3-3 (2-2)    4-2     3-1      3-1     12-6
3.  NYANC        Yao     2-4 (1-3)    4-2     3-1      1-1      9-7
4.  Randomat     Ginder  1-5 (1-3)    3-3     2-2      4-0     10-8
..  Button       Gordon               3-3                       3-3
6.  Chessnobyl   Wright               3-3     3-1      3-1      9-5
7.  SnuggleBug   McClellan            1-5     4-0      3-1      8-6
8.  Swoop        Schiano         1-1  0-6     3-1      4-0      8-8
..  Alkahest     Ruiz            1-1      4-0 0-4      3-1      8-6 [GH]
10. WOPR Jr      Atkins          4-0      3-1     4-0  2-2     13-3
11. FloydMarchw  Verbovshuk      3-1      1-3     4-0  2-2     10-6
... VeryNEWcular Chiem           2-2      1-3     2-0  1-3      6-8
13. Baphomet     Peckham         4-0      4-0     0-4  2-2     10-6
14. Lanimret     Weninger        2-0      3-1     0-4  4-0      9-5
... Master       Sarafzadeh      3-1      0-4     2-2  2-2      7-9
... Gary         Ly              3-1      2-2     4-0  0-4      9-7
... LibertyPrime Lanini          4-0      4-0     0-4  2-2     10-6
18. Minilla      Hughes          0-4      3-1     2-2  0-4      5-11
... Trial        Collins         2-2      3-1     0-4  1-1      6-8
20. DuckBill2    Martinez        0-2      3-1     2-2  2-2      7-7
... Red Bull     Le              0-4      2-2     2-2  0-4      4-12
22. Kraken       Becker          2-2      0-4     0-4  4-0      6-10
... Phoenix      Szeremi         2-0      1-3     0-4  2-2      5-9
24. NoExp        Junio           1-3      0-4     2-2  1-3      4-12
... Boom         Brasel          2-2      0-4     4-0  1-3      7-9
... Zaneth       Liu                              0-2  1-3      1-5
27. Loki         Tat             0-2      0-4     0-4  0-4      0-14
DNC AG-3         Liang                                 ---      ---

Many thanks to Augustine Orozco and Juan Zendejas for volunteering at
the tournament.  Also thank you to Brandon Kishiyama for proctoring the
instructor's program on Day 2.

"Newcular Chess" was a lively game and is still far from being solved!