Chess-playing computers are now accessible to the average consumer. From the mid-1970s to the present day, dedicated chess computers have been available for purchase. There are many chess engines such as Stockfish, Crafty, Fruit and GNU Chess that can be downloaded from the Internet free of charge. These engines are able to play a game that, when run on an up-to-date personal computer, can defeat most master players under tournament conditions. Top programs such as the proprietary Shredder or Fritz or the open source program Stockfish have surpassed even world champion caliber players at blitz and short time controls. In October 2008 Rybka was rated top in the CCRL, CEGT, CSS, SSDF, and WBEC rating lists and has won many recent official computer chess tournaments such as CCT 8 and 9, the 2006 Dutch Open Computer Championship, the 16th IPCCC, and the 15th World Computer Chess Championship. As of 3 February 2016, Stockfish is the top rated chess program on the IPON rating list.
CCRL (Computer Chess Rating Lists) is an organisation that tests computer chess engines' strength by playing the programs against each other. CCRL was founded in 2006 by Graham Banks, Ray Banks, Sarah Bird, Kirill Kryukov and Charles Smith, and as of June 2012 its members are Graham Banks, Ray Banks (who only participates in Chess960, or Fischer Random Chess), Shaun Brewer, Adam Hair, Aser Huerga, Kirill Kryukov, Denis Mendoza, Charles Smith and Gabor Szots.
The organisation runs three different lists: 40/40 (40 minutes for every 40 moves played), 40/4 (4 minutes for every 40 moves played), and 40/4 FRC (same time control but Chess960).[Note 1] Pondering (or permanent brain) is switched off and timing is adjusted to the AMD64 X2 4600+ (2.4 GHz) CPU by using Crafty 19.17 BH as a benchmark. Generic, neutral opening books are used (as opposed to the engine's own book) up to a limit of 12 moves into the game alongside 4 or 5 man tablebases.
Using "ends-and-means" heuristics a human chess player can intuitively determine optimal outcomes and how to achieve them regardless of the number of moves necessary, but a computer must be systematic in its analysis. Most players agree that looking at least five moves ahead (five plies) when necessary is required to play well. Normal tournament rules give each player an average of three minutes per move. On average there are more than 30 legal moves per chess position, so a computer must examine a quadrillion possibilities to look ahead ten plies (five full moves); one that could examine a million positions a second would require more than 30 years.
After discovering refutation screening—the application of alpha-beta pruning to optimizing move evaluation—in 1957, a team at Carnegie Mellon University predicted that a computer would defeat the world human champion by 1967. It did not anticipate the difficulty of determining the right order to evaluate branches. Researchers worked to improve programs' ability to identify killer heuristics, unusually high-scoring moves to reexamine when evaluating other branches, but into the 1970s most top chess players believed that computers would not soon be able to play at a Master level. In 1968 International Master David Levy made a famous bet that no chess computer would be able to beat him within ten years, and in 1976 Senior Master and professor of psychology Eliot Hearst of Indiana University wrote that "the only way a current computer program could ever win a single game against a master player would be for the master, perhaps in a drunken stupor while playing 50 games simultaneously, to commit some once-in-a-year blunder".
In the late 1970s chess programs suddenly began defeating top human players. The year of Hearst's statement, Northwestern University's Chess 4.5 at the Paul Masson American Chess Championship's Class B level became the first to win a human tournament. Levy won his bet in 1978 by beating Chess 4.7, but it achieved the first computer victory against a Master-class player at the tournament level by winning one of the six games. In 1980 Belle began often defeating Masters. By 1982 two programs played at Master level and three were slightly weaker.