The PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament, which was held on the Playchess.com server, ended today with the finals and the match for third place. Three grandmasters, working very efficiently with support from computers and human colleagues, had eliminated all opponents of the predominantly computer kind. With one exception: dark horse ZackS with no GMs or even titled players, had made it all the way from the qualifier (required for non-titled players) all the way to the finals, leaving even the giant Hydra machines in its wake.
The result of the final was a real shocker: ZackS defeated 14-year-old Russian GM Vladimir Dobrov, working together with a 2600+ colleague (and of course computers) convincingly with a 2.5:1.5 score. A full report on both sides will follow. For now we just note that ZackS consisted of a team of two players from New Hampshire: Steven Cramton, 1685 USCF and Zackary Stephen, 1398 USCF. They used three computers for the event, an AMD 3200+, a 2.8 MHz and a 1.6 MHz Pentium. The ZackS team used the chess engines Fritz, Shredder, Junior and Chess Tiger – no GMs or IMs were involved.
There was some skepticism that two chess amateurs were able to defeat opposition that included GMs who were 1000 Elo points stronger and equipped with powerful computers, especially in the consistent and efficient way ZackS had done it. Did they have outside help, some super GM developing plans that they checked with the computer? Many speculated that it might be Garry Kasparov, who was the initiator of this kind of computer assisted chess matches. When we asked him Kasparov confirmed that was not the case. But he reminded us that it doesn't really matter. The guiding principle of Freestyle Chess: anything is allowed. "Even if they were assisted by the devil, that would probably be covered by the rules," he joked. "Only the moves they played count."
In the battle for third place Tank1, whose common-law identity is GM Vladimir Kosyrev of Russia, Elo 2542, played four draws against GM Konstantin Landa, and eventually overcame him in the tiebreak games. Here is the final result:
Click here to download the final games, with timestamps for all moves. A full background report on the players and the games will appear in the next days.