Friday, November 23, 2012

The perfect Christmas present for the chess player on your list

... is Houdini 3, the latest version of the world's strongest chess engine.

USCF Sales is running a Black Friday sale through Sunday: you can buy the Standard Edition of Houdini 3 for something like $85 dollars all in (Media Mail shipping) if you use the coupon code BLACKFRIDAY.   (I am not a big fan of USCF Sales, but this is ten clams cheaper than what I paid last week.)

Or if you have Amazon Prime, you can buy Houdini 3 for $84.95 (price updated 11/25/12) and have it two days later.

My guess is that 95% of users won't have any need for Houdini 3 Pro. This souped-up version supports 32 cores and 256 GB of hash memory, as opposed to the standard version's "measly" 6 cores and 4 GB of hash.  I suspect that the difference in analysis strength is not noticeable in most cases, and that most grandmasters would find the standard version more than adequate for their needs.  (And Houdini can suck up all system resources if you let it: on a quad-core machine, I only use three cores for analysis.)  But if you can afford the extra $20, the lucky giftee might find the pro version marginally more useful: hobbyists interested in computer vs. computer play and correspondence players might be most likely to benefit.

I really like the DeepFritz 13 user interface, and even find the contextual Microsoft Office 2010 interface somewhat less annoying that I did when using Rybka 3 Aquarium.  While there's a handy "Goto Chessbase" feature for ChessBase users, I havn't been able to install the Houdini 3 engine directly in ChessBase. But that's my only complaint so far: this is truly great software!  I hope to have a fuller review before Santa loads the sleigh.

For those of you on a budget: earlier versions of Houdini are available to download free of charge.  See this earlier blog post for details.

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