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Houdini (Computer)
Number of games in database: 80
Years covered: 2011 to 2016
Overall record: +33 -15 =32 (61.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games.

Repertoire Explorer
Most played openings
C18 French, Winawer (4 games)
B22 Sicilian, Alapin (3 games)
C02 French, Advance (3 games)
D45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav (3 games)
B04 Alekhine's Defense, Modern (2 games)
C14 French, Classical (2 games)
A10 English (2 games)
E12 Queen's Indian (2 games)
B54 Sicilian (2 games)
A87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation (2 games)

   🏆 TCEC Season 9 (stage 1a)
   Houdini vs Komodo (May-21-16) 0-1
   Raptor vs Houdini (May-19-16) 0-1
   Houdini vs DisasterArea 163 (May-18-16) 1-0
   Bobcat vs Houdini (May-16-16) 1/2-1/2
   Laser 11 vs Houdini (May-16-16) 0-1

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Houdini is authored by Belgian chess player and programmer Robert Houdart. It was introduced in 2010, using original code as well as ideas from Stockfish (Computer), Crafty (Computer) and the controversial strong open source engines Ippolit/Robbolito; Houdart denied claims that his new engine was an outright Ippolit derivative, though he acknowledged the influence of Ippolit-family programs.

From the start, Houdini was a contender for the title of world's strongest program; Houdini 1.5a won TCEC seasons 1 and 2 ahead of Rybka (Computer) in 2011. Houdini 3 defeated Stockfish to win nTCEC season 1 in 2013, affirming Houdini's status as the top chess engine. Stockfish and Komodo (Computer) overtook it in 2013–14; Houdini's most recent publicly released version, Houdini 4, remains the world's third-strongest independent chess program. Houdini 5 is scheduled for a release in 2016.

Originally a free engine, Houdini has been commercial since the launch of Houdini 2 in September 2011.

Official website:

Houdart interview:

Houdini 1.5a, operated by User: Golden Executive, played in the Masters - Machines Invitational (2011) as Golden Executive / Houdini.

Wikipedia article: Houdini (chess)

Last updated: 2018-12-03 07:09:03

Try our new games table.

 page 1 of 4; games 1-25 of 80  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Rybka vs Houdini 0-1532011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchB22 Sicilian, Alapin
2. Houdini vs Rybka 1-0772011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchD78 Neo-Grunfeld, 6.O-O c6
3. Rybka vs Houdini 0-1862011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
4. Rybka vs Houdini  1-0662011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
5. Houdini vs Rybka 1-0722011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchB18 Caro-Kann, Classical
6. Houdini vs Rybka 1-0532011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchD02 Queen's Pawn Game
7. Rybka vs Houdini  1-0702011TCEC Houdini - Rybka MatchD12 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
8. Houdini vs A Celander ½-½902012CasualC97 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
9. Houdini vs Rybka 1-0982013nTCEC - Stage 1B54 Sicilian
10. Critter vs Houdini 1-0792013nTCEC - Stage 2aE44 Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation, 5.Ne2
11. Junior vs Houdini  0-1872013nTCEC - Stage 2aB54 Sicilian
12. Houdini vs Vitruvius ½-½842013nTCEC - Stage 3A87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation
13. Rybka vs Houdini  1-0602013nTCEC - Stage 3C18 French, Winawer
14. Vitruvius vs Houdini 0-1522013nTCEC - Stage 3A87 Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation
15. Houdini vs Rybka 1-0852013nTCEC - Stage 3C18 French, Winawer
16. Houdini vs Stockfish  0-1872013nTCEC - Stage 4C18 French, Winawer
17. Komodo vs Houdini ½-½572013nTCEC - Stage 4B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
18. Stockfish vs Houdini  0-1762013nTCEC - Stage 4 - Season 1C70 Ruy Lopez
19. Stockfish vs Houdini  ½-½612013nTCEC - Superfinal - SeasonD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
20. Houdini vs Stockfish  ½-½412013nTCEC - Superfinal - SeasonD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
21. Houdini vs Stockfish ½-½692013nTCEC - Superfinal - SeasonE15 Queen's Indian
22. Stockfish vs Houdini  ½-½562013nTCEC - Superfinal - Season 1D99 Grunfeld Defense, Smyslov
23. Stockfish vs Houdini ½-½872013nTCEC - Superfinal - SeasonE12 Queen's Indian
24. Houdini vs Stockfish 1-0532013nTCEC - Superfinal - SeasonD98 Grunfeld, Russian
25. Stockfish vs Houdini ½-½1092013nTCEC - Superfinal - Season 1B04 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
 page 1 of 4; games 1-25 of 80  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Houdini wins | Houdini loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 7 OF 7 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-10-13  SChesshevsky: <Daisuki: ...if we simply castled into black's half-open h file manned by the Rh8.... Anyway, pushing pawns aggressively also has its drawbacks..>

Related to castling, that's my point the pawn's advantage actually turned into a disadvantage because the King would not castle. As in the game, the King moves 7 times by move 35 all on the back rank. That doesn't exactly suggest proper play needed to achieve equality.

Related to pawn pushing, I'm obviously not advocating woodpusher pawn attacks but with the Knight on the a-file, O-O-O, and if the Rooks were connected without tempo loss it looks like White has at least a shot at equality. You don't have to promote the pawn but gain space on the Kside, exchange the lead for another then try to keep the pressure on that minority side and look to keep exchanging pawns. Certainly not the same strategy as one would use to win even-up.

That's why I think a chess computer's program would likely have to be altered to favor lines which have the best chances for drawing rather than trying to gain any sort of advantage.

That's the idea of computer vs. computer. If the disadvantaged computer can draw a significant number of times against another similar computer, and if it can be tweaked to even be better at drawing, then the assumption is that against a top player with odds the computer might not win but might also rarely lose.

Dec-10-13  Daisuki: In the game black doubled rooks on the h file. So castling kingside probably would've been bad. White could've castled queenside after black did, but by then white had disturbed its pawn structure there. I think overall it's a problem because you can't just not disturb your pawn structure anywhere, so wherever you castle black can just double rooks (or set up Alekhine's gun) and slam you. The more you trade pawns, the more mobility that extra piece gets, too, which is also a problem. Even if you play better than your opponent and get a passed pawn for no material or positional concession I think that passed pawn would just get eaten later. And I really don't see how to get multiple passed pawns without issues. Honestly I would expect a more passive strategy based on having pawns in front and trading and opening the position as little as possible to perhaps have better chances, but when I personally try this while up the full knight against Houdini or Stockfish it's a fine line between holding things together and getting so passive that I fall apart at least a little. Engines could do better, but how much better I don't know.
Dec-11-13  SChesshevsky: <Daisuki: ... a more passive strategy based on having pawns in front and trading and opening the position as little as possible to perhaps have better chances...>

A great discussion. Lots to think about. Related to the above comment and unrelated to computer play, the general theory is that with a material disadvantage, even a pawn, passive play typically loses outright. The strategy with advantage is to get good position, easier when there are no complications, then position the King and then exchange for the endgame. It's easier with the Rooks off. Best defense is usually to try to create an unbalance somewhere, stir up complications and swindle.

It's probably ancient history now but when I played a lot, being a pawn up, especially the right one, meant a won game. Byrne once wrote about Fischer's poisoned pawn defense that though risky, the pawn if held means a won game. Or something like that. It might be something to consider for own play as it might still be true.

Dec-11-13  kardopov: C'mmon, start the nudging. Who's gonna hurl the first salvo? Maybe a program developer should challenge Carlsen to a winner take all match with the prize coming from both parties as a wager, say to the amount of 2M Dollars. Both parties have to raise 1M each. The condition: 7 games of classical chess, less knight for the computer.
Dec-11-13  Daisuki: I know passive play is generally bad, but engines default to active play, and that seems like a loser when you're down a piece, unless you have <many> extra pawns. Two pawns doesn't seem to be very close to cutting it (in terms of expected score; I know the ~200-point inferior Rybka couldn't win in a couple of its 3'+2" games, but more equal engines always did so far) between two roughly equal strong engines. "Swindles" just aren't really going to happen in such engine games, as "complications" are no problem for engines, and, as stated by others, tactics favor the player with the extra piece. I'm sure it would work better between more unequal players and/or players enough lower in skill so as to be unable to exploit the extra piece too well relative to the two extra pawns. Otherwise complications and active play are like marching forward to your death, since you are down the piece. Of course everything's a matter of death, but it did take a third more moves in a 3'+2" game for Houdini to mate Stockfish when Stockfish was set to 0/0 aggressiveness/cowardice (which seems to mean that it doesn't care much about both reducing the opponent's king safety and increasing its own king safety, respectively). Under this setting it didn't seem to place its pieces so aggressively or trade them much, and it kept the position more closed by pushing pawns, which seems better than normal in this situation.

Yes, I'd say that an extra pawn from a starting position would probably often be won (between equal enough, good enough players).

Dec-11-13  Daisuki: -50/0/0 contempt factor/aggressiveness/cowardice Stockfish lost to Houdini in 56 moves, while -50/100/100 (the latter two being defaults) lost in 55 moves. Both games were 60'+30". I don't really see an easy way to make it drag out the game. I could play with pawn settings, but in the end the piece is worth way more than the two pawns to engines. The starting position with Nb1, a7, and h7 missing is evaluated at -2 to -3 by various engines, in spite of white having the advantage of the first move.
Feb-15-14  FairyPromotion: Oh my, oh my, oh my....

What a game by Houdini! Chess is amazing!!

Jun-08-14  supertimchan:

Houdini is now just the second best engine in the world, far behind the Stockfish champion. In the computer engine world, Houdini is more or less like Aronian. Strong, stable but not the best.

Stockish would be Magnus Carlsen. Dominate everything and winning everything.

Jun-08-14  supertimchan: Professional players are leaving Houdini because it's simply expensive and much weaker than Stockfish. Google TCEC chess championship and you'll see Houdini was owned by the Stockfish team.
Jun-08-14  supertimchan:

Houdini lost to Stockfish on the rating list. Just another stupid commercial product which doesn't provide anything over a free alternative. Don't be fool, stay away from Houdini.

Jun-08-14  N0B0DY: The uncompromising 'high quality standards' of this troll need to be reflected in the showroom.
Jun-08-14  supertimchan: You talking about me? Are you serious? Houdini has been proven as a much weaker chess engine than the world's number one Stockfish. Look at the TCEC world computer chess championship how Houdini 4 performed.

Only fools would purchase for a weak engine when the strongest is free.

Jun-08-14  supertimchan: Look at yourself.

Houdini is no longer a relevant chess engine to the top players. Stockfish is much stronger. Stockfish is programmed by Tord.R who is also a computer adviser to Magnus Carlsen.

Robert Houdart can't possibly compete with the Carlsen's top adviser and many many other open source contributor.

Jun-08-14  supertimchan: We're about to witness a repeat of Rybka. Houdini will fade away from the computer chess community simply because it's slow and weak.
Jun-08-14  N0B0DY: Houston, we’ve had a problem.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Houdini 4 off to a good start in the TCEC Season 7 Stage 1b group, as it's off to a 5/5 start. It wasn't all easy, as Houdini (3145) had to face 4th seed Senpai (2973) with black, and won.

I'm not sure if Houdini can beat Nightmare 7.82a (2808, 2/5), but in Round 7, Houdini will have Exchess 7.31b (2670, 0.5/6) with white. :|

I doubt Houdini will make it 10/10, but if it does, I doubt it could go any farther, as beating the top seed (Komodo 8, 3151, 4/5) must be a nightmare.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Update: Houdini's winning streak was snapped after Naum (3001) drew it with black in Round 8. Houdini still finished with an incredible 11.5/13, yet is TIED for 1st with Komodo. However, Houdini is 2nd on tiebreaks (SB) becasuse of the loss against Komodo. Nevertheless, an incredible performance.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: <supertimchan: Houdini will fade away from the computer chess community simply because it's slow and weak. >


Jul-23-16  scholes: There is going to be first update of Houdini in 3 years. Houdini 5 dev version is playing in TCEC stage 3. It soundly defeated reigning WCCC Komodo in first game of stage 3. But since TCEC is a scam they had to replay the game. Houdini 5 is expected to be relased in November
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: If you are planning to order the latest Houdini version, 5.01, be careful. I attempted to order it on Jan-26-2017. Their order web site had a pull down menu for specifying a shipping method but, when I clicked on it, I couldn't specify anything. On previous orders of Houdini I was provided with a link to download the software after my purchase was approved but this time the confirmation email indicated that no shipping method was specified. Which was not surprising since I was not allowed to specify one.

What is surprising and worrisome is that I contacted Robert Houdart, Houdini's primary developer at the email address provided and got no response. I also did not get any response to another issue that I contacted him about via email for my planned purchase of Houdini 5.0. I would have thought that questions about being able to order their product would receive a high response priority.

I needed to contact PayPal directly even though I thought that, by specifying that I wanted to have the purchase charged to my Visa card directly, that PayPal would not be involved. But involved they were. They had to contact Robert Houdart twice in response to my request for a refund, but I did have a refund for my purchase provided within a few days.

I checked Houdini's website today and apparently their order shop is temporarily closed and will reopen on February 8. Maybe my experience caught their attention and hopefully they will have fixed this problem by then. Still, I wonder if anyone on their staff tried to check the ordering process before they went live.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: Has anyone been successful in purchase Houdini 5.01? After my bad experience in the post above I tried again to purchase it after their web page was updated. But, once again, it took my money via PayPal and provided no indication as to how I was supposed to obtain it. So, once again, I requested a refund and, once again, I got it.

Emails to Robert Houdart at as indicated on their web site have gone unanswered. I have never seen a commercial organization which is apparently trying to sell a product but makes it impossible for its customers to purchase it. At least no commercial organizations that stay in business very long.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to successfully purchase their product, please let me know.

Apr-23-17  rokko: If you buy Houdini 5.01 from a chess-specialised shop (not directly) it works perfectly well. I use it since Christmas and am very satisfied. I just tried some of the critical cases from the Stockfish forum and it works well (Larsen's Qa7 was found in 10 seconds on a laptop). My impression is that it needs a similar time to Stockfish to find some of the results and shows them at a lower depth (26 vs. 34, for example). Better than SF8, probably not, but a different perspective.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <rokko> Thanks. I thought about doing that but, perhaps not surprisingly, it was cheaper to buy it from someone else rather than from the Houdini site. I was attracted to the Houdini site because (a) it was cheaper and (b) I had bought it from the Houdini site several times before without any problems and had downloaded the free versions prior to that, also without any problems. But maybe this is their way to discourage direct purchases. Which, if that’s the case, it’s a bizarre way of doing it. Why not just direct customers to commercial sites?

So I guess it’s now a case of finding the cheapest commercial site.

Sep-21-17  scholes: Houdini 6 have been released. 50-70 elo stronger than Houdini 5 in various rating lists. Probably 10-20 elo stronger than latest stockfish development versions.
Nov-16-17  Appaz: Impressive result by Robert Houdart and Houdini in TCEC 10. 1.5 points lead over Komodo and Stockfish after 21 rounds in stage 2.

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