Freestyle Chess

Where almost anything goes...

FAQ on Freestyle Chess

1. What is Freestyle Chess?

Freestyle Chess is a competition between humans who are allowed to use any technical or human support for selecting their moves. The major difference to correspondence chess is the much faster speed of play. Freestyle Chess is very similar to "Advanced Chess", introduced by Garry Kasparov, in which use of computer however is limited and external human assistance excluded. The first big Freestyle Tournament with a number of well-known International titleholders among the participants was held in May/June 2005. The rate of play in the main tournament was 45 min. per game + 5 sec. per move. In the playoffs it was 60 min. + 15 sec., and this has become the standard of the PAL/CSS Freestyle tournaments. In the 7th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament a rate of play of 90 min. + 30 sec. was tried, and this likewise found many advocates, who expect a strengthening of the human factor by this.

2. Is really �anything allowed� in Freestyle Chess?

No, unsporting behavior to get an advantage towards competitors is not allowed. The PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament Rules (from April 2008) contain important definitions to guarantee a fair course of action. From a practical point of view �anything goes� in Freestyle chess except unfair behavior. Some incidents, however, during the 8th Freestyle Tournament and discussions afterwards showed, that these Rules have to be reworked in order to fulfill their purpose.

3. Which technical equipment does one need for Freestyle Chess?

The minimum requirement is an Internet connection to the chess server and the chess software to take part in the tournament, i.e. to send and receive moves. Usually all this resides on a singel computer, which we will call your �Internet PC�. Theoretically you can use the same machine for your interactive chess analysis, but most of the Freestyle players use more than one PC for the task. The analysis will run on a second PC and sometimes even on a third or fourth. The number of PCs is not decisive, but their power. That�s why multi-processor systems and also engine versions that have been developed for such systems are favoured by Freestylers. Powerful chess engines with six or at least five-men tablebases (for endings) are just as important as efficient hardware.

4. Can I not simply let the computer play?

The experiences of the first six PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournaments have shown that under certain conditions pure engine play can be fairly successful. Nevertheless, the engines were not able to stand their ground and were outclassed by well prepared opponents. The combination man + machine has turned out to be considerably stronger than pure engines. Since the 7th PAL/CSS Freestyle Tournament automatic engine play has been technically outlawed. Participants are expected to execute their moves manually and remain in full control of the game. There were too many problems in fully automatic engine play (which also defeats the spirit of Freestyle Chess).

5. What is a �centaur� and how does one play as a centaur?

The name "centaur� is used for the combination man + machine in the machine room of the server. There a centaur can load an engine and analyse the current position in the game. Many Freestylers use this "kibitzing" engine for control and as security in case they get into time pressure and have to make moves very quickly. The main analysis is performed on a second or multiple PCs.

6. How does one become a good Freestyle chess player?

Success in Freestyle chess can come about in rather different ways. It can be reached by teamwork or individually, it can be the result of powerful hardware or software, chess skills or knowledge, good competition tactics, or simply luck. Usually it is the sum of all these factors. Usually a strong chess player who has a weak computer and is inexperienced in the use of chess engines has no chance of a top rank. On the other hand a weak player with a very powerful machine and a good openings book can, with a bit of luck, win a prize. Of course the best chances are to be expected from an experienced team and powerful hardware.

7. What do I do if I lose the connection with the server?

Usually reconnection is automatic, and you can only see by the word �reconnect� inserted in the notation that there was a temporary problem. If the interruption of your game lasts two or three minutes it means you have possibly lost connection with the Internet (and not only to the chess server). If this is the case, try first � without closing the game window or the main window to the chess server � to restore your Internet connection.

If this does not work you can try to click �Reconnect� in the server client. If you have to restarting your computer you can log into the chess server (remember to set "centaur" if that is how you are playing), go to the tournament room and consult the tournament director on how to proceed. You may be able to resume the game where you left off.

8. What do I do if my opponent is not on-line any more?

You must be patient and wait. In no case should you click �Claim win on disconnect� which in normal blitz games leads to the game being aborted by the chess server. In Freestyle tournaments this decision is made exclusively by the tournament director. You can communicate with him by chat or, if necessary, by email. If you cannot reach the tournament director in the chat window, for example because you are not connected with the chess server, send him an email.

9. Must I stay on-line all the time during the entire tournament?

It is required that you should be present in the tournament room not later than five minutes before the round starts. If you are not, round will begin without you. At the start of the tournament it is necessary to be in the tournament room half an hour earlier in order to sign up for the tournament. Once you have received the confirmation from the tournament leader, you can temporarily leave the tournament room and the server.

10. Where and when do I find the standings and the pairings?

During a Freestyle tournament held according to the Swiss system you get to know the new pairings at the beginning of each round. In the main window you can see the pairings of the other participants when you click on the �Games� tab . The �Info� tab will show the results table.

11. Are there any tiebreaks?

No. Past experiences with Freestyle playoffs have shown that these are too costly and it can be very difficult to find a satisfactory system that is fair to all. So the final rankings are determined by a special scoring system as announced before the tournament. The ranking order usually determines who qualifies for the next round or the next stage of a tournament, but the money prizes are split equally among the players with an equal score.

12. Is there a Freestyle ranking list and Freestyle Elo rating?

The games of the Freestyle tournaments are rated in a special Freestyle Elo List, as published by InfinityChess. A player must have 30 rated games to get a proper rating � before that the rating is "provisional".

13. Must I register for Freestyle with my real name?

The registration for a Freestyle tournament requires that you identify yourself properly, with your name and your email address. You can choose your nickname freely, but organizers preserve the right to show your real name in the results table.

14. Are you allowed to withdraw from the tournament?

All participants are expected to complete the tournament and not withdraw as soon as they feel they do not have a chance to win a prize or qualify for the next round. Silently withdrawing in such circumstances is unsporting, it should only be done with the permission of the tournament director.

15. Where do I find Freestyle game databases and tournament reports?

On, on the CSS web site, in the archives of the ChessBase news page as well as in various Internet forums and private homepages.

16. What do the names PAL and CSS stand for?

The PAL Group of Companies, the main sponsors of the Freestyle Chess tournaments, has its seat in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). CSS is the abbreviation of the German magazine �Computerschach und Spiele�, which was published for two decades in a printed edition, but has now migrated to the Internet and is available as an on-line magazine since 2005. The web site is, and the email contact is redaktion (at)

Arno Nickel (July 2008)

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