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REBEL 11.0 review

by Peter Skinner

Monday, November 06, 2000

I was shocked to have been selected as a beta tester of Rebel 11.0, as well as honored. I had heard about the Rebel beta periods before, and was impressed with the level of respect that the authors treated the testers, and vice versa.

This year there was a total of 22 testers, and what a group it was. I found it to be an incredible learning experience, as well as very enjoyable. I salute Ed, Christophe, Lex, and Jeroen for an excellent beta testing period. Never before have I felt totally free to express my views. Even the negative ones.

Let's get on to the programs.

Rebel 3.0

Having never owned a Rebel product before other than a demo, I was quite impressed with the product. While still in native DOS, Rebel was surprisingly strong, as well as intriguing. I was not ready for the experience I had with it.

I have been playing chess programs for about 6 years now personally, and used them via FICS or ICC for about the last 2 years. With having never played a program with the knowledge level, nor the positional strength that Rebel 3.0 possesses, I found myself at the mercy of the program for days.

One of my best lines vs computers, the Vienna, failed miserably vs Rebel 3.0, and I was shocked. I was able to draw Fritz, or at the very least get to move 40. This was not the case vs Rebel 3.0. Most times Rebel moved instantly, as it's knowledge of most openings is tremendous. I couldn't believe at the level I was being beat. So as I was having no luck playing Rebel, I thought it might be best to try some auto232 matches vs some of the top programs that I owned.

I started a match with Fritz 6a, using the time controls of 30 mins per side, and to my surprise, the first game was an excellently played game, that ended in a fantastic no material draw. Rebel was never behind in the entire game. I let the machine run over night at these times controls, having Fritz save the games for me ( as I had not yet learned how to do this in Rebel ), and when I woke up, Rebel had an edge in the series. In fact the score was +5 for Rebel. This was shocking to me, as I have long been a fan of the Fritz series, and found them incredibly strong.

So I found myself thinking, let's see how it does vs Hiarcs 7.32, as I thought that Rebel's positional play was fantastic, I put it up against the best positional chess program known at the time. It was no contest, Rebel won the series hands down, and with little difficulty. The score in 30 min per side games was +11 =4 -6. This to me was impressive.

After the series, I thought I would look into the personalities, and database functions. To say the least, I was moderately impressed. I was expecting more. The program had played so well, my expectations were very high for the rest of the program.

It's database fucntions, while good, needed a little bit of a push to impress me. This happened when I stuck a pgn collection of games in, and went to analyze a game I personally had played over FICS and lost. Within moments, I was able to see the opening I had played was terrible. Rebel quickly took me through my game, and showed me exactly where I had blundered big time, and the correct moves to have been played. Nice, neat, and to the point. I liked that. That impressed me. I also liked the fact I always knew Rebel's score of the match, as it doesn't show the score for white, it shows the score for the opponent, or itself when actually playing. There was no guess work. I could look, see that Rebel was up or down. I didn't have to look, and decide whether white was ahead or black was, it was simple. Nice touch I felt.

So with being not to impressed at the start of the database features, I was quickly turned on a couple of quick features:
  • The scoring system is easy to understand.
  • Rebel provides excellent analysis for my games.
  • Easy to start analyzing games.
  • Saving games is a snap.
This is all I needed to know I was going to fall in love. Chessbase products can be a little tricky when doing any of this.

Now as the GUI is totally in DOS mode, I was not really impressed. I would have prefered a Win32 interface. And this is the only lacking feature I can see from the Rebel 3.0 program. I liked the fact that the installation program made nice short cuts on my computer, and had the best hash settings based on my system. I would recommend all users, use these as they are a time saver, and great for starting the program.

I would estimate it's elo around the 2640 level, based on games played, and using Elo_Stat to tell me the elo of the game. Elo_stat had Rebel 3.0 at 2638 from the pgn of games I gave it to read. Good enough for #2 on the list. I guess you'll be asking which program topped in on the list.... read further..

ChessTiger 13.0 and the ChessPartner 5.0 Interface

Christophe Theron has improved his already fantastic program with amazing detail. I would estimate that Chess Tiger 13.0 is 40-70 elo points ahead of Chess Tiger 12.0, and that is impressive all by itself. I don't really have to go further do I? Of couse I do.

Having the engine in the ChessPartner interface, not only is the makings of an attractive program, but it allows internet play, it is a Win32 GUI, and has features beyond belief.

Playing the Chess Tiger program is a head banging experience. Trust me.. my head hit the table so many times, I was ready to throw my computer across the room. It was completely frustrating, as the tactics used are enourmous. Chess Tiger 13.0 like ChessTiger 12.0, simply comes across the board, and stomps you.

Setting up matches locally was easy, just select a menu option as to which side of the board you wanted Tiger to play, and you were off. Easy again... Another interesting feature is the compatibility of almost every Winboard engine I tried to load into the ChessPartner interface. It was as simple as creating a folder for each engine, setting up an ini file, and with in a few minutes, I had Yace, Comet, Crafty, and I few others working perfectly in the interface. The readme file on how to do it is very straight forward, and the most novice user can setup engines in it. It was so easy, I was actually laughing to myself. To date I have 18 Winboard engines setup in the interface.

Unlike Chess Tiger 12.0, it makes you eat it's rooks to no end. I found it's endgame play tremendous. Christophe has taken the approach of more knowledge over the implementation of the Nalimov tablebases. I found this VERY appealing. While Tiger leaves a very small imprint on my hard drive, it leave a huge impact in your mind. Not having the tablebases has not hurt it one bit. In fact I think it has certainly helped the program. After the first session of testing Tiger II ( 13.0 ), I was left with the impression, I was apart of something huge. Never had I been so taken with a program.

In auto232 matches Tiger scored as following in 30 min per side games:

Tiger 13.0: +9 =5 -6

Fritz 6a: +6 =5 -9

Tiger 13.0: +11 = 5 -6

Hiarcs 7.32: +6 =5 -11

Tiger 13.0: +7 =3 -5

Gandalf 4.32e: +5 =3 -7

Tiger 13.0: +15 =5 -9

Crafty 17.13: +9 =5 -15

After some initial doubts of playing online at FICS with it, due to small hardware ( PIII 450 ), I gave it a try. I was impressed with the strength at which it was winning games. One game vs a Crafty clone, was over in 19 moves. Tiger simply destroyed it. I can't explain it any other way. After a few days, I was amazed to see I had taken #1 in blitz on FICS with a 2584 rating, and #3 in standard with 2528!!!! No other program was able to beat me, and the human players were having fits trying to win. It had not lost on time, as the previous version had been known to do, and it's play was spectacular. I could not believe my eyes!! This I think is due to the fact that there is no limit to the hash tables you can use. Tiger is no longer restricted by a 2 - 8 meg hash for quick time controls, as I used 96megs of ram for hash tables, and Tiger played as well in 0 1 games, as it did in 60 60 games. Truely amazing.

On as little hardware as a PIII 450, I was beating 700-1Ghz machines with ease, and even a few dual machines ( FICS only has a few dual machines ). This to me was even more impressive than at which Rebel 3.0 dismantled Hiarcs 7.32. Also saving the games from the internet was as easy as opening a database, leaving it open, and checking a box to autosave all the games. Can it get any easier than that? No...

I wanted to test it's database funtions, so I opened an EPD file in the interface, and easy as pie, no problems. I was able to analyze games from it with Rebel 2.0 as it has been successfully ported to Windows as an analysis engine in the Rebel Tiger II package. I was also able to use Rebel Tiger to analyze games with out any difficulty. I liked these two facts, very much.

I also wanted to try to create a book for Chess Tiger, I loaded a pgn file, and lickity split, I had a user made book. Nice is all I have to say.

All in all, I was more than impressed with the product, and I think will definately recapture #1 on the SSDF this coming year. I also have a feeling that the computer chess world is in for a shock. Christophe Theron has done it again, and I don't really think anyone should be to surprised. He has improved an already great program, and the field is left trying to catch up.


Chess Tiger has won two tournaments!! The Dutch Open, and the French Computer Chess Title. Excellent performance!

Gambit Tiger 1.0

Well you are probably wondering what this engine is. Imagine Chess Tiger with even more attacking prowess. Hard to imagine but very true.

Read above about Chess Tiger 13.0, and then get ready.

Gambit Tiger is the already famous creation of Christophe Theron. He has taken the Chess Tiger program, and altered it to play a new level of King Safety, and attacking play.

While not as strong as Chess Tiger 13.0 ( About a 30-40 elo difference ), Gambit Tiger plays very attractive chess. To say that Gambit Tiger is weaker than Chess Tiger, I mean it will stomp you in 30 moves, instead of 28 like Chess Tiger will. Hardly a weakness I assume. While playing a different brand of chess, Gambit is no slouch. I find that I am playing it more than Chess Tiger, due to it's attacking style. It's tactical strength is it's strong point, and your King will never be the same.

It plays in the same interface as Chess Tiger 13.0, and is capable of playing over the internet, and has done very well indeed.

In auto232 matches vs Fritz 6a, it scored +14 =8 -9. Impressive indeed I bet you are saying. It is. I haven't ran as many auto232 games with Gambit Tiger as I have with Chess Tiger 13.0, but I am expecting a 9% difference in score. This of course is just an estimation.

Overall Impression

I am very impressed with the Rebel 11.0 package. I was expecting less, and got more than I assumed I would get.

Once again, the Rebel Team has put together an attractive package, and any chess player would enjoy to own. It offers 4 strong engines, and features that make my mouth water. You get the ChessPartner interface that has Winboard compatiblility.

You get an interface that can run two separate engines via the internet, without difficulty, and Rebel 3.0 which is worthy of any chess library. You can also use Rebel 2.0 as an analysis engine in the ChessPartner interface!

I feel that the Chess Tiger 13.0 and Rebel 3.0 programs can definately improve on this years IPCCC result of tying for third place.

I think there was an idea was to make the package as attractive as possible, and very easy to use, and it succeeds in both ways.

I expect great things from the Rebel Team in the future, and if this package is any indication, I am sure it will happen.

Congratulations to Ed, and Christophe. I wish you nothing but the best in the future.

I want to thank you for the opportunity of being a tester, and I am a better person for knowing you both. And I hope next year you will have me on as a tester again. I definitely look forward to working with you again.