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Zhores Supercomputer at Skoltech helped Ian Nepomniachtchi win FIDE Candidates Tournament

Ian Nepomniachtchi, the Russian chess grandmaster who won the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, used the computational resources of the Zhores supercomputer to prepare for the games: the Skoltech cluster and AI-based technology helped Nepomniachtchi and his team team evaluate tens of millions of positions per second while training for the tournament.

“Chess tournament preparation these days is very dependent on software. Skoltech provided the full range of computational power for me and my team. I’d also like to personally thank Yuri Shkandybin, who set up and supported this work,” Nepomniachtchi said.

Several months ahead of the tournament, Nepomniachtchi’s team reached out to researchers at the Skoltech Center for Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE). They wanted to make full use of the interaction between a human player and a machine to prepare for the tournament.

“Ever since Deep Blue won the game against Garry Kasparov, there is no doubt that computers are better at chess than people. But people keep playing against each other, and to prepare for those games, all leading chess players use machines: they prepare their debut and evaluate various positions to know them better than their competition. Every top chess player has a lot of computational power at their side,” Yuri Shkandybin, “Zhores” systems architect, said.

CDISE researchers and Nepomniachtchi’s team adapted several existing chess engines for a supercomputer cluster. “Ian’s team had 24/7 access to these resources and used them during preparation for the games,” Oleg Panarin, Manager of Data & Information Services and Technical Head at CDISE, said.

“AI is an important part of modern chess. Among other things, it is used to evaluate the current position in a game and to predict promising moves. AI can offer previously unknown strategies that later become part of the grandmasters’ repertoires. In the future, you may be able to train a neural network to imitate someone’s style based on their game history,” Skoltech Professor Sergey Rykovanov, who leads the high-performance computing group at CDISE, said.

Magnus Carlsen, the current World Chess Champion who Nepomniachtchi will soon challenge, has said in interviews that one of his heroes is AlphaZero, a Google DeepMind neural network and currently the best chess software in the world. Nepomniachtchi says his team hopes to continue working with Skoltech to prepare for the ultimate game. “We have some ideas, but it would be premature to talk about them,” Nepomniachtchi said.

“We in the Skolkovo ecosystem are very happy our computational resources are applied in all sorts of spheres and have played a small but significant part in Ian’s victory,” Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President and Skolkovo Foundation Chairman, said.

The game between Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen will take place from November 24 till December 16 in Dubai.

Contact information:
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