The neural-network engine Leela is a relatively new one. It's also got some extremely passionate fans. For example they write things like this:

Wait 5-6 months, and we will see SF8 on uber-duper logarithmic in cores Elo-wise 32 cores being smashed by Lc0 on my puny single 1060.

Watching Leela's fans argue up and down Talkchess, Chess.com's computer championship chat and TCEC chat, about how their engine is / isn't superior to Stockfish because of [multitude of factors] or how their engine is going to crush Stockfish after the next learning rate drop, about how the "end of an era" is at hand, etc, makes me wonder: why are Leela's fans so passionate?

I don't recall seeing anything similar to this before Leela showed up. It's not like Leela is so special either: before Leela showed up, Stockfish, Komodo and Houdini dominated engine chess, and there were periods when any of the three were the strongest engine. But I don't recall seeing any of their fans displaying the same level of intensity.


3 Answers 3


You can't really objectively answer this question, but I'll share my view.

One of the important factors to take into account is that Leela Chess Zero project requires tremendous computational resources to complete. The way project attains those resources is by convincing large number of people to donate part of their machine time to that project.

To make this work, project needs to sustain strong community that clearly sees its goals, ideas and progress. There have been done many things for that: there is a very active discord chat, google groups, blog, you can see lots of graphs and metrics regarding project status, there are very detailed spreadsheets, etc. Also some chess youtubers helped this project grow community (e.g. KingsCrusher and ChessNetwork) by featuring it in their videos.

Beating StockFish is one of the very important goals of this community.

When people are united around some idea, it's because they are passionate about it. The behavior you are describing looks the same as when people argue about politics, football, religion, nationality, etc.


Leela is special because it's the first strong open-source deep-learning engine. Defeating Stockfish (and also Komodo and Houdini) convincingly on all settings is a very significant milestone, practically more important than Google's AlphaZero. Google's system is inaccessible to anyone but themself.

Human-understandable evaluation function has always been part of engine design, since it started around 30 years ago. Leela, running on a complex neural network evaluation will be the first open-source "intelligent" leading chess engine. The engine "learns" chess by NN machine learning, a much smarter programming technique than random heuristics programming. Engine programmers no longer have to guess/hardcode engine heuristics!

For the first time in history, we will have access to a free and strong "intelligent" chess engine. Stockfish is also strong but it knows nothing about chess.

The era of none-AI evaluation will soon end. Stockfish, Houdini and Komodo will soon fade in existence. Chess engines adopting classical programming techniques will no longer lead the world. Leela is the future, Stockfish will be history.


Anytime a group of people get extremely hyped about something (and especially when they aggressively bash alternatives), there's a good chance this is just human tribalism at work. Leela may become extremely strong in the near future, but to say with 100% certainty this will happen now is naive.

People also like change. Stockfish is a revolutionary engine (strong evaluation function based on a huge number of heuristics, and an incredibly fast searching function), but it's been the top dog for a long time. No matter how good things are, eventually people want something even better. It's what drives society forward.

Again, I'm not saying it's impossible for Leela to live up to its hype. It's just that this hype you're describing isn't currently warranted.


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