End of the Torch Experiement

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AndrewGrant
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End of the Torch Experiement

Post by AndrewGrant »

Almost exactly one year ago we announced the release of Torch ( https://www.chess.com/news/view/torch-chess-engine ). We were a bit ambitious at the time, and announced it as the #2 engine, after beating Leela in the most recent Bullet event at CCC at the time. Today, that claim rings much more true, although still has some minor points of contention. Torch has beaten Leela in multiple Bullet and Blitz events in a row; Never managed to win one of the Rapid events; But has beaten Leela in a h2h classical event.

Chesscom got into the space out of a need to develop a replacement for Komodo. They needed a strong chess engine which could be used for integrating their other products. Many features on Chesscom, from Game Review, to puzzle generation, to Bots (obviously!) are powered by high quality engines. The goal was always for that. In fact, despite me being the only full time employee working on Torch, a plurality of my time was spent on things not related to Torch's strength.

Its a bit self-aggrandizing, but the Torch team got a lot done, managing to very quickly beat Dragon by large margins, establish itself as the rank 2 engine with some confidence, and take a fair number of games off the king. I personally hoped to achieve more, but considering the sparse nature of the team, we are certainly ahead of schedule and under-budget.

As of now, the development effort strictly for strength is at a close. Unfortunately that also means I have no justification to continue working on OpenBench during company time, so developments there that benefit everyone here will be slowing down. Work in Torch will be rounding out some outstanding issues (Numa, some Syzygy stuff), just generally cleaning up the code where possible, and then harnessing Torch to power tools.

One such example: Torch has a heavily modified alpha beta search, which allows a sort of multi-multi-multi-...-pv. We're able to extract a large number of lines from the search in a single search, and we're going to use that to provide humans a better experience when reviewing their games -- avoiding giving confusing engine lines that are only marginally better than what a strong player would have done. Hopefully one day, Torch can be the new home of all of the Chesscom bots as well.

As time passes, interest in investing in Torch's strength may arise once again. But until then, I want to say thanks to the core team, Finn Eggers, Kim Kahre, Michael Whiteley, and Jay Honnold, as well as those who have contributed to Torch's strength, Dietrich Kappe, Kenneth Wilber, and Morgan Houppin. This ragtag team of guys forever have a place in my heart.

A big thanks to all the fans, testers, viewers, content creators, and general enthusiasts who followed our progress.

Image
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CornfedForever
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by CornfedForever »

As a chess.com member, I am happy to see the 'practical' phase ready to be realized. Their game analysis has so much room for improvement.
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pohl4711
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by pohl4711 »

"the development effort strictly for strength is at a close" - IMHO the computerchess overall reached such a high level of strength, that it would make sense, to define other goals for the further development.

For example, there is my EAS-tool, which makes it possible to measure the aggressiveness of play of engines. Ed Schroeder used it already to make his Rebel playing more sacrifices (and it worked!). And there is a new engine, called Patricia, which will be the "most aggressive superhuman engine ever created", using my EAS-tool:
https://www.sp-cc.de/patricia_eas_engine.htm
https://github.com/Adam-Kulju/Patricia

The chessengines reached super-human level of strength, now let them reach a super-human level of entertainment on the chessboard!
Krzysztof Grzelak
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Krzysztof Grzelak »

AndrewGrant wrote: Tue Jun 18, 2024 11:49 pm Almost exactly one year ago we announced the release of Torch ( https://www.chess.com/news/view/torch-chess-engine ). We were a bit ambitious at the time, and announced it as the #2 engine, after beating Leela in the most recent Bullet event at CCC at the time. Today, that claim rings much more true, although still has some minor points of contention. Torch has beaten Leela in multiple Bullet and Blitz events in a row; Never managed to win one of the Rapid events; But has beaten Leela in a h2h classical event.

Chesscom got into the space out of a need to develop a replacement for Komodo. They needed a strong chess engine which could be used for integrating their other products. Many features on Chesscom, from Game Review, to puzzle generation, to Bots (obviously!) are powered by high quality engines. The goal was always for that. In fact, despite me being the only full time employee working on Torch, a plurality of my time was spent on things not related to Torch's strength.

Its a bit self-aggrandizing, but the Torch team got a lot done, managing to very quickly beat Dragon by large margins, establish itself as the rank 2 engine with some confidence, and take a fair number of games off the king. I personally hoped to achieve more, but considering the sparse nature of the team, we are certainly ahead of schedule and under-budget.

As of now, the development effort strictly for strength is at a close. Unfortunately that also means I have no justification to continue working on OpenBench during company time, so developments there that benefit everyone here will be slowing down. Work in Torch will be rounding out some outstanding issues (Numa, some Syzygy stuff), just generally cleaning up the code where possible, and then harnessing Torch to power tools.

One such example: Torch has a heavily modified alpha beta search, which allows a sort of multi-multi-multi-...-pv. We're able to extract a large number of lines from the search in a single search, and we're going to use that to provide humans a better experience when reviewing their games -- avoiding giving confusing engine lines that are only marginally better than what a strong player would have done. Hopefully one day, Torch can be the new home of all of the Chesscom bots as well.

As time passes, interest in investing in Torch's strength may arise once again. But until then, I want to say thanks to the core team, Finn Eggers, Kim Kahre, Michael Whiteley, and Jay Honnold, as well as those who have contributed to Torch's strength, Dietrich Kappe, Kenneth Wilber, and Morgan Houppin. This ragtag team of guys forever have a place in my heart.

A big thanks to all the fans, testers, viewers, content creators, and general enthusiasts who followed our progress.

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Sorry for asking, on what basis are you writing this, Andrew?
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Steve Maughan
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Steve Maughan »

This all seems very logical. The question many of us in this forum have is — will we ever be able to use Torch as a standalone UCI engine?

Hopeful regards,

Steve
http://www.chessprogramming.net - Maverick Chess Engine
Ras
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Ras »

Steve Maughan wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 2:22 pmwill we ever be able to use Torch as a standalone UCI engine?
That wouldn't make sense commercially. Torch can only form an additional argument for their subscription fees, which are their business case, if it's locked into their platform.
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Werewolf »

Shame it didn't play at TCEC.
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Steve Maughan
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Steve Maughan »

Ras wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 5:03 pm
Steve Maughan wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 2:22 pmwill we ever be able to use Torch as a standalone UCI engine?
That wouldn't make sense commercially. Torch can only form an additional argument for their subscription fees, which are their business case, if it's locked into their platform.
The reason Chess.com created Torch was to have an engine that it controlled and so they didn't need to tip-toe around the licensing agreement for various use cases. People don't subscribe to Chess.com due to Torch or any other engine. So (IMHO) there's zero commercial risk to making Torch available as a UCI engine. They could even make it available as part of the top-tier sunscription.

— Steve
http://www.chessprogramming.net - Maverick Chess Engine
Ras
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by Ras »

Steve Maughan wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 6:32 pmThe reason Chess.com created Torch was to have an engine that it controlled and so they didn't need to tip-toe around the licensing agreement for various use cases.
Hardly so. For their server use, Stockfish with GPL (not: AGPL!) would not be a problem at all because the binary is never delivered to the users. However, there would be no selling point because everyone can run Stockfish at home.
They could even make it available as part of the top-tier sunscription.
That would be a commercial mistake. If you run a subscription based platform, the last thing you'd want to do is dealing out features that enable people to enjoy the benefits away from the platform.
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AndrewGrant
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Re: End of the Torch Experiement

Post by AndrewGrant »

Ras wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 6:48 pm
Steve Maughan wrote: Wed Jun 19, 2024 6:32 pmThe reason Chess.com created Torch was to have an engine that it controlled and so they didn't need to tip-toe around the licensing agreement for various use cases.
Hardly so. For their server use, Stockfish with GPL (not: AGPL!) would not be a problem at all because the binary is never delivered to the users. However, there would be no selling point because everyone can run Stockfish at home.
They could even make it available as part of the top-tier sunscription.
That would be a commercial mistake. If you run a subscription based platform, the last thing you'd want to do is dealing out features that enable people to enjoy the benefits away from the platform.
There is very little harm in releasing it as a free UCI engine; and there is very little harm in keeping it internal to the site.

At the end of the day, unless Torch surpasses Stockfish, and does so by margins that are obvious without massive hardware testing, there is no real value in it. Its an infinite arms race to improve the engine, with no particular purpose. All of us here know that of course. And we don't care! Keep improving engines. :D

I would be annoyed though to watch degenerate developers reverse engineer Torch to find the (10? 20?) elo they could add to Stockfish.
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