These days I am finding that LSS, where engine use is not prohibited, is my site of choice for playing correspondence chess. The main reason is that on most sites when you are playing at around 2200 and above most people are using engines despite the fact that they are prohibited. I don’t have a problem using an engine when I know my opponent is, but on a lot of those sites you run into opponents who are rated under 2200 and they probably aren’t using engines. And then there is always the possibility that your 2200-2300 rated opponent is legitimate. This means there is a problem of making a decision as to which opponent is using and which isn’t and to be fair you don’t want to be firing up your engine against somebody who is not using one. On the other hand, you don’t want to find yourself playing unaided against somebody who is using Fritz because usually by the time you confirm your suspicions it’s too late.
So, I prefer to avoid facing such a quandary by playing on a site where I can use an engine. The problem with that is that I’ve had to try and acquire a whole new set of skills because, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, there’s more to playing CC than just letting an engine choose your moves…at least there is if you are serious about CC and want to feel like you’ve accomplished something. Yes, just like winning a well-played game unaided gives one a feeling of accomplishment, teaming up with Houdini and outplaying some guy who’s teamed up with his engine will also leave you feeling like you’ve accomplished something. Maybe not like the feeling I got 40 years ago when I knocked off a 2400 otb rated player who was in the top ten in the US in CC, but …well anyway, back to the Gull, Strelka, Houdini stuff…
Gull vs. Houdini resulted in three draws though in the first game Houdini had a B+2P’s vs a lone N but could not win owing to running out of time. Another alleged Rybka clone, Strelka, was crushed by Houdini when it lost 3 out of 3. In the first game Strelka walked into a pin that lost a piece and in the other two games it also appeared to be inferior tactically. The rating list on Zarkon Fischer’s site seems to bear out the results of my quick tests that Houdini 1.5a remains the strongest engine. The top 8 engines on the IPON rating list, which didn’t have Strelka listed are:
1.Houdini 1.5a 3011
2.Deep Rybka 4 2954
3.Stockfish 2.01 JA 29164.Critter 0.90 SSE42 2888
5.Komodo64 1.3 JA 2830
6.Naum 4.2 2825
7.Deep Shredder 12 2800
8. Gull 1.1 2788
Many of these engines are available for download at SDChess.