new chess computer: CT800

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Ras
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new chess computer: CT800

Post by Ras » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:46 pm

So here is a new dedicated chess computer, the CT800:

http://www.ct800.net

The raw playing strength of about ELO 2100 may seem unimpressive to quite some of you who are into engines in the 2800+ range. However, the power consumption of the total system under computing load is just 0.4W. That would barely suffice to power the mouse of a PC running Stockfish.

Some of you may remember the engine: it is based on NG-Play v9.86, but I made a lot of bugfixes and changes. The opening book alone has grown from a 1,000 plies to 17,000 plies, all of them checked with Shredder and entered manually. Together with a total rewrite from line-based to CRC-32 position based. Pawn eval and rook handling are also better than with the baseline version, playing stronger in quiet positions.

Actually, I am more into embedded systems than into chess programming. When I saw some exciting Cortex-M4 boards, I figured that I had to do something with them, so I came up with a chess computer. The system is not using any operating system; it is running bare-metal. I even ditched the C standard library. The hardware interface is not using libraries, either. I found it more interesting to do that low-level part as per the reference manual of the CPU.

The challenge was to get the software running on the ARM platform with just 192 kB RAM, including the interrupt stuff, various configuration options, time controls and the embedded user interface. The whole thing originally had 7,000 lines of source text, which has tripled by now. That is not counting the opening book and its compiler. Plus of course building up the hardware itself with lots of soldering, drilling, filing and so on. It is not just a concept, it is a real and working prototype.

However, the software itself can also be tested on any platform that has GCC available, like GNU/Linux or Windows with Cygwin. Documentation can always be better, but I put quite some effort into proper docs. Not only for the software, but also for the hardware.

George Georgopoulos, author of NG-Play, didn't put a dedicated licence to the software. He just stated that people are free to do anything as long as it stays open source. I felt that this is in the spirit of the GPL, so I put the project under GPLv3+. Another contribution is the KPK endgame table module by Marcel van Kervinck. Thanks to you both.

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fern
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by fern » Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:50 pm

Very interesting to any dedicated unit geek, as I am and some other here and in the Hiarcs forum for certain. So, the question is if you have some prospects to make the unit marketable in one of these days...

Fern

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fern
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by fern » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:34 pm

Very interesting to any dedicated unit geek, as I am and some other here and in the Hiarcs forum for certain. So, the question is if you have some prospects to make the unit marketable in one of these days...

Fern

Ras
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by Ras » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:26 pm

I will try to convince some manufacturer. That's why I included so much documentation especially on the hardware, as to make it easier to get such a thing into production. Maybe Millennium will show interest if enough customers tell them that they will not buy the next Lang software in a different housing.

(Nothing against Richard Lang and his software, both are great. It's just that customers might want some more variety. And/or are interested in having the sources of their chess computer as per the GPL.)

I do see a market for a briquet-style retro chess computer with modern hardware. Better no board at all than a cheap, disgusting plastic board, that is my take. I have my fine wooden chess set to play along, pretty much like everyone else in the market.

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fern
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by fern » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:41 pm

iN FACT, IN THE hIARCS FORUM, i HAVE SAID A COUPLE OF TIMES PRECISELY THAT, THAT i WILL NOT PURCHASE JUST ANOTHER lANG THING WITH SAME HOUSING AS MUCH AS THE ONE i ALREADY HAVE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH.
I have insisted in new programs, but of the old guard. It would be LOT more interesting if you can get one of those old programmers to put at your hands one of his products in exchange of a manageable condition.
The attraction of old computers is a mix of many things: the housing , even if cheap plastic but that resemble old stuff; programs of the pAST, etc
If one of those factors lacks, interest vanishes fast too.

Fern

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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by Henk » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:49 pm

If you can't smell the wood then it is no authentic classic chess. Also pieces should have some weight.

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fern
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by fern » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:21 pm

The wood contrivance certainly is the most desired, BUT also plastic stuff has some merits. I love very much Champion Chess Challenger, the first of these machines with a decent level of play and it is a plastic thing with just a belt of wood. Or Par Excellence, full plastic and nevertheless a real classic. Same with Superconnie., etc.


Plastic is not that bad regards
Fern

Ras
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by Ras » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:41 pm

fern wrote:I have insisted in new programs, but of the old guard. It would be LOT more interesting if you can get one of those old programmers to put at your hands one of his products in exchange of a manageable condition.
The Phoenix Chess System allows for a lot of emulations.

Obviously, that is the old programs by the old guard, however at more speed. The main issue with the old guard is that they have retired by now. Except Richard Lang, but he is more or less recycling Chess Genius over and over. I don't think he will develop something new from scratch. OK, Nitsche (Glasgow) isn't retired either, but he is into math teaching apps.

We'll see, hopefully I can convince a manufacturer. I would support him free of charge, provided that I get the production device with serial number 1. In any way, it isn't commercial interest for me personally. Already by now, the project has fulfilled its original main purpose, getting familiar with ARM Cortex-M CPUs.
Henk wrote:If you can't smell the wood then it is no authentic classic chess. Also pieces should have some weight.
That's why I use a wooden chess set at some hundred EUR, which is a pleasure to watch and touch. I consider it as perfect. But you won't get this in a chess computer. Even the very expensive high-end systems by Phoenix and Pewatronic are nice in that regard, but not really breathtaking, to my eyes. In any way, they are at thousands of EUR.

I can put a boardless chess computer at the desk and use my favourite chess set. Of course, typing in the moves manually. And, hopelessly retro, together with an old-style analogue chess clock.

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fern
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by fern » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:33 am

Between those old boys that are not really retired, perhaps you could contact Martin Bryant, author of a very good software in the 80's, Colossus. That he is NOT retired is proved by the fact that no more than 10 years ago he took his old engine AND not only made of it an UCI contrivance, but he gave it hundreds of extra elo points with a Full re write.

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Ras
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Re: new chess computer: CT800

Post by Ras » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:48 am

Colossus? I do remember that from the C64, that is really oldschool. :)

Interestingly, Wikipedia states it was converted to C, and the 2008 version had a whooping 2642 in CCRL. That is miles ahead of what the baseline version of NG-Play had to offer, which is rated at 2173 at CCRL.

Unfortunately, the homepage link given by Wikipedia seems to be defunct. So I can't check how much RAM Colossus would need to run, or whether this performance was reached in singlethread (with the Cortex-M4, multithreaded would be useless because the CPU only has one core).

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