Computer Chess

Reader Request: Chess Engine Review with Chess Tiger 2007

This review was¬†a request from a fan of my Facebook page. Always happy to do things for my loyal readers. ūüėÄ

This WILL, however, be a very subjective review, based on my own experience with Chess Tiger…

Let’s begin…

I first became a fan of the Chess Tiger chess engine back in 2001 when I got a hold of Chess Tiger version 14.0 and before long (think: 2 minutes ūüėČ ) launched an engine tournament in my¬†Fritz 7 GUI.

chess engines tournament
This is what one of my engine tournaments from 2001 would have looked like.

In those days the leaders of the computer chess world had been Fritz 7, Junior 7, Hiarcs 8 Bareev, Shredder 7.04 plus perhaps a couple of others like Rebel, and all of these different chess engines had had distinct and fascinating human-like playing styles.

I was just 17 at the time with a playing strength of about 1800 ELO, had spent several hours each day studying the games of these chess engines (over the board, not on the computer screen!) as well as studying my own games with their assistance.

At the time I played a HELL of a lot of standard games (usually with around 40 mins each) on FICS and followed them with immediate chess engine analysis.

From memory, the playing styles of the above mentioned engines were as follows.

Breaking Down Early 2000s Chess Engines

Fritz 7 – Raw Tactical Power! (I remember when I first bought this and loaded it up. My friend Ron and I played a blitz game against it and were amazed it its intelligent tactical play. Felt like we were playing blitz with a real Grandmaster!)

Junior 7 РTactical Power with Speculative Sacrifices (as well as sometimes crazy launches of the h-pawn for human-like kingside attacks)

Hiarcs 8 Bareev – This is the version of Hiarcs which defeated GM Bareev in a match and which played in a very nice positional style

Shredder 7.04 – This version of Shredder was strong as hell. It won several of my engine tournaments at the time, playing with¬†a super-solid, strategic mastery reminiscent of former World Champion Tigran Petrosian. At the time I wasn’t a fan of its style, but now as a much stronger player, I can respect its playing style a lot more.

Then came Chess Tiger…

I remember when I got hold of Chess Tiger 14 (from top French programmer Christophe Théron) as well as its companion engine Gambit Tiger 2.0.

This was a game-changer at the time (in my eyes at least).

With Chess Tiger 14 you’d get a Karpov-like strategic player which was awesome in itself, but you also had access to Gambit Tiger 2.0 (its companion engine) with was like the Kasparov of engines at the time.

I remember in 2001 Chess Tiger 14 won a strong tournament in Argentina ahead of several grandmasters, and at the time this was a huge breakthrough.

Chess Tiger vs Panno
GM Panno playing against the computer in Argentina.

A software program could compete with and defeat grandmasters at long time-controls?

Shocking.

Especially the 2788 performance rating which Chess Tiger achieved in the event.

Here’s a standout game with CT defeating GM Panno. The final move is cute.

Chess Tiger 14 vs GM Oscar Panno

In my early twenties I took a few years off chess to focus on more important things (like being “cool”, girls, music, earning money etc) and when I came back there was a new sheriff in¬†engine¬†town.

This engine also happened to be the last windows based chess engine from Chris…¬† ūüė•

Chess Tiger 2007

Before even seeing it play, I was already pretty happy with one element of Chess Tiger 2007…

Instead of having seperate engines for the “Normal” version and the “Gambit Tiger” version, Chris had merged them into a single engine, with all options changeable in the engine’s options.

chess tiger 2007 options
Easy-to-use options for Chess Tiger 2007

Chess Tiger 2007 Options

So here we have 4 Basic Style Options.

Then we have the “Anti-human” option and¬†“DrawScore” (sometimes called “contempt”)

With these options, just a few adjustments can simulate almost any type of opponent.

1. Solid old guy who “Isn’t what he used to be”

This opponent is somebody we have all played in a tournament before. So why not train against this type of play?

If I were to simulate this opponent, I’d simply choose the “Normal” style with a “DrawScore” of +2.

This will make Chess Tiger play in its normal strategic style, but be more than happy to take a draw even if slightly better.

Play against this guy in an ultra-positional opening and its like the real thing.

2. Overconfident Chinese kid who is a Tactical Wizard

I KNOW we’ve all played this kid.

This is the kid who rocks up to the tournament and (like many kids) lacks the manners or tact of adults, but LOVES chess.

He lacks deep positional skills but attacks relentlessly and calculates tactics very well.

If I were to simulate this opponent, I’d choose the “Gambit Suicidal” option, tick the “Anti-Human” option and make the “DrawScore” -2.

Play against this guy in a sharp line you want to learn to play better and it’ll certainly simulate the real thing quite closely.

He will play sharp, tactical chess and even if you reach a position with reduced material and think its a draw, he’ll say “No thanks!” and play on arrogantly until its K vs K.

He’ll try every trick in the book to make you slip up, so be careful!

Good luck! haha¬† ūüėÄ

I’m sure using the the variables in the options settings, you can have a lot of fun and improve your own chess in the process.

Lets look at a couple of games from the engine.

Sample Games

CT2007 Gambit Aggressive vs Gandalf 5.0

In this game you’ll see Chess Tiger using the Gambit Aggressive setting and truly living up to its name.

Straight from the opening CT sacrifices a pawn and keeps his opponent’s king in the centre.

Then…At the right moment, sacrifices an exchange for a vicious king-hunt.

CT2007 Gambit Suicidal vs Zarkov 4.86

In this game you’ll see Chess Tiger (This time my favourite, the “Gambit Suicidal” setting) up against John Stanback‘s legendary Zarkov engine.

CT plays an interesting human-like idea against the Sicilian (11.Nxc6 and 12.b3!? followed by queenside fianchetto) and by the time 20.f5 was played, it was clear (at least to a human player) that black is skating on very thin ice.

22.h4! and 26.e6! were two very beautiful attacking moves which could easily have been played by Gary Kasparov or Mikhail Tal

Now black was really in trouble.

Chess Tiger again adds icing to the cake with a lovely exchange sacrifice (27.Rf6!!) and black quickly collapses. A really nice game.

Conclusion:

Chess Tiger remains a legendary chess engine for training games and has a human-like attacking style, and good strategic understanding.

Although it cannot cold a candle to modern engines like Stockfish in terms of strength, this is not our interest when using Chess Tiger.

Here we have a historic computer chess legend with a great style which makes it perfect for the training games of players above 2000 ELO.

  • “Hiarcs 8 Bareev ‚Äď This is the version of Hiarcs which defeated GM Bareev in a match.” Real defeated?

    • Hi Alex, wow that was a silly oversight. I already knew the result of the match (all games drawn), but still wrote “Defeated Bareev”… Must have been in a daze when I wrote this article. Thanks for the comment.

  • Michael Reyes says:

    Yep the golden years of Computer Chess! I agree with your observations on the style of Chess Tiger. Version 15 seemed to have become stronger a bit but seemed to have lost the Karpov-style too. I have the 2007 version but I stick with versions 14 and 2 (Gambit).

    • Yes. ChessTiger 14.0 has a really nice, Karpovian style I like a lot.

      GambitTiger 2.0 however has lost its claws when compared to some of the other “gambit” style engines now.

      If you check games with it, the sacrifices are mostly no-brainers and it never speculates , unlike Thinker, Fizbo, or any any specifically tweaked engines that are still similar strength despite the high-risk style.

      • Michael Reyes says:

        I agree. With Gambit Tiger, you kind of feel the attack building up and if all goes well, it will inevitably result in a sacrifice somewhere. The true speculative engines have an element of uncertainty with their play.
        Have you tried Bright 0.4a? For me this engine is the closest to perhaps I would say, Morozevich’s style, during his peak. I’ve watched hundreds of games from Bright and it has the unique ability, among all the engines I have used, to steer positions into unique and original channels pretty quickly. It chooses moves that quickly steers the game into interesting, murky waters almost every game. But of course pitting Bright against the likes of Stockfish will not allow it to show off its style that well

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