This guide goes into the programming of Komodo, a chess engine which is considered by many to be one of strongest chess software programs available. The purpose of this guide is to give an overview and introduction to the Komodo program for programmers who are either interested in designing the next great chess engine or simply want better data analysis capabilities in their own programs.
The Komodo Chess Engine is a UCI chess engine developed by Don Dailey and Mark Lefler, and is supported by chess GrandMaster Larry Kaufman. Komodo is considered to be a commercial chess engine, meaning you have to pay for its use, compared to other open source engines such as Stockfish. However older versions from 12 and older are available for free public use.
The Universal Chess Interface (UCI) is a protocol for communication between a chess program (the “client”) and an interface (the “server”). It was designed in the late 1990s by Fabien Letouzey and is now an open standard, supported by almost all chess interfaces. The best known providers of UCI-compatible chess servers are Chessbase, Winboard, Arena, and Shredder.
How Does Komodo Work?
The Komodo chess engine is really source code that when compiled produces a program that when run can play a game of chess against another human or machine. That program can be run on a variety of machines and operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS-X, and Linux. The following section will take you through the logic behind how Komodo plays its game of chess. The first part of this section is describing the Komodo Chess engine and its capabilities. The next section describes the various parameters that can be used to configure the Komodo chess engine for a more challenging play.
The Komodo chess engine is written in C++ programming language and it uses the Stockfish chess library for parsing moves and positions, so it has a significant advantage over other engines in that it doesn’t have to implement its own chess algorithms. The Komodo chess engine is capable of playing at a FIDE rated level, though it will never be able to play beyond this rating as the moves it makes are restricted by the Stockfish algorithms.
The Komodo chess engine is also capable of playing games at the amateur level and has a scoring function that takes into consideration points lost for time and blundering. In addition to its ability to play at an amateur rating, Komodo can also make use of opening books which can be uploaded to the engine for free use.
Komodo’s calculation ability is not as strong as its playing ability, but Komodo can still handle calculation functions well, especially on weaker opponents. Komodo also has a “strength” parameter which can be used to increase the “weakness” of an opponent. This will enable the Komodo Chess Engine to solve for longer than it normally would on a particular board position.
There are many parameters that can be used to control the behavior of the Komodo chess engine. The following is a list of options that can be used to configure Komodo for a more challenging opponent.
-p: This parameter is used to specify the number of rounds in an extended tournament, or how many games should be played in a standard event. In an advanced tournament this value must be set at least 2 times greater than the number of games in the single round event being played. For example, for a double round event the value should be at least 4.
-f: This is the percentage of time that Komodo will spend on its analysis. For example, if the value of this parameter is set to 50 then Komodo will spend half of its time analyzing moves.
-e: This option controls how many evaluations Komodo makes before it stops analysis. A larger number will result in fewer evaluations and therefore a faster response from the engine when it plays a move.
Komodo’s chess playing style relies heavily on evaluation from move to move, rather than on a deep codebase of knowledge. Its typical play is “aggressive”, searching for opportunities to maximize the advantage of a position, rather than searching for material. It also makes a conscious effort to utilize its relatively limited amount of memory capacity to its fullest, often running several moves in the processor’s cache before moving on.
Komodo players have been labelled as aggressive-aggressive. That is, they tend to play aggressively by developing piece and pawn positions that threaten opponents and their own king position. An aggressive player may develop a ton of pressure on their opponent and run out of time in the process. The goal may be to tie the game or find an irresistible position, but success is imperative for the aggressive player. They tend to play quickly and decisively, they are interested in developing good positions rather than tangled technical games.
Aggressive players usually have an aggressive opening style. They are willing to sacrifice material to get at their opponent. Provoking mistakes from their opponents is a key technique of the Aggressive player, especially when they are playing Black. Since they prefer complex positions, they often will not play very soundly in simpler positions, and will prefer to complicate matters than simplify into a safer position. Some aggressive players also have a tendency to spend time pursuing an attack and overlook defensive considerations. The aggressive player may make sacrifices for little gain.
The Komodo chess engine is capable of playing other chess programs on the same computer. The connectivity between different programs differ between engines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Komodo Use Artificial Intelligence?
It is common for chess programs to use artificial intelligence techniques, so why does Komodo not? In a way, Komodo does. The main difference between using artificial intelligence and using programmatic techniques is that the engine does not have control over the playing process and has no awareness of the chessboard and pieces. Komodo employs programmatic techniques as it searches for positions that will be advantageous for both sides based on positions from previous matches played. Also, when developing its own algorithms to calculate the most advantageous moves, Komodo uses probability to determine which move will be played. This process is called “programmatic chess.” Komodo uses common chess knowledge to complete the equation to figure out which move will be played.
Komodo can play against another human opponent while using programmatic chess techniques. However, Komodo’s main strength is in its ability to play other engines based on a “weak” opponent. That is, it can use the evaluation function of the engine being played against it, and will play according to that engine’s evaluation function. Komodo does not have any “hard” evaluations from previous matches it has played against this particular engine.
How to Play Against Komodo?
Komodo’s playing style differs from a human’s playing style in that it has little patience for developing complex positions. Komodo will often play moves only after evaluating the position and determining the best move. This is important to note because Komodo runs on small amounts of computer memory, so a long calculation can cause Komodo to run out of memory or crash.
Komodo is capable of playing with a “weak” opponent. If two chess engines are playing a game against each other, the engine rating of the “weak” player can be used to calculate the evaluation function used by the engine. This will cause Komodo to play according to that engine’s evaluation function.
Does Komodo Use Deep Learning?
The Komodo chess engine does not use neural networks. It is instead based on programmatic techniques, also known as “deep” search approaches. The basic idea is that when a position occurs during the game, it will be evaluated and played on the board based on some evaluation functions. The engine then searches for moves that will lead to an advantageous position.
Can Humans Beat Komodo?
Yes. Komodo does not start out with a predetermined evaluation function, but rather learns as it plays games against other engines. This means that the evaluation functions depend on previous draws and losses to “weak” opponents. More specifically, the programmatic chess approach enables playing strategies to be played with less dependence on static evaluation functions. This allows chess engines like Komodo Chess Engine to adapt their strategy based on current board positions, which is a necessity for players to defeat Komodo.
Komodo’s play is perhaps most similar to chess engines like Houdini and Rybka. Like Komodo, these engines rely heavily on evaluation functions from move to move rather than long term knowledge of the game. This makes them dynamic and able to adapt their play based on ever-changing situations, much like a human opponent would do in a real game of chess.
Although Komodo plays and evaluates moves differently than humans do, it puts its understanding of positions to good use when playing. Komodo will often play as though it had complete knowledge of every possible chess position, and this is one of the primary reasons why Komodo is so good. Komodo’s intelligence allows it to search for opportunities to win, be aggressive, and avoid mistakes.
I hope this guide on the Komodo Chess Engine helped you. If you liked this post, you may also be interested in learning about other Chess Engines like AlphaZero and Stockfish.