Sunday, January 29, 2023 08:44

Archive for December, 2009

Quick Update

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Getting my PDA case made, posted, and playing chess last night has taken a lot out of me! ;)

Last night I played one game. But it was a 61 move game that I feel fortunate to have made a draw from. And I don’t know how long we took at it.

And more chess tonight! There may or may not be something tomorrow morning, depending. ;)

Busy times, indeed! But I’m enjoying my chess.

Enjoy your chess!

Of PDAs and Steampunk Cases…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to mention this for any PDA / electronic scoresheet owner… There are a number of essential accessories that a person who owns a PDA should have. And I retrofitted/built/homebrewed one accessory over the last 24 hours or so.

But first: Get screen protectors for your device. Without screen protectors your PDA’s touchscreen will have a limited life. (Especially if you’re using it to record Blitz games.) I know whereof I speak in this. Like the song that advises you to use sunscreen, this is an essential protection need!

As a professional, I have managed to take an iPhone screen protector and cut it down for my PDA – and it looks like it’s working well so far. (Time will tell, and I do not advise trying that at home!)

Other less essential items to have: A spare battery for the unit (if your unit’s battery can be replaced by user.) Mine can – and I intend to get a spare one. I may start using an SD external card – still thinking on that one. The Axim I have does have a CF slot, and I have an old CF based WiFi card – not as sure about that one. I will still have a backup manual scorekeeping method. My old equipment case is up to the challenge I have found, but one does have to account for that, also. Additional power adapters may help, as well, for on-site charging if necessary.

But there is one other essential: A case to carry it in. (This assumes that one doesn’t come with it.) The MonRoi does have a hard plastic screen protecting cover. My Axim didn’t come with case – though that might change with future runs, Sevan tells me.

So… what to do? Answer: Trip to Hobby Lobby! I spent an hour plus finding primary components to build my own box from. I had settled on an unfinished card box, some tools, felt, etc. to convert it. Then I found something that with some modding will work better.

My picture-intense solution after the cut!


Now… What did I forget?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009


More specifically, I forgot to read that little paragraph in many ads and sites for software. The paragraph that starts, “System Requirements.” And this turns out to be a problem…


Thinking about Computer Analysis

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

I got a number of wonderful gifts for Christmas. Among them eNotate and I just ordered Fritz 12 from the USCF Sales outlet on Amazon! Yay!

Update late morning 12/26: Tomorrow’s blog post will detail some of my troubles – it turns out I may or may not be able to use the Fritz 12 I ordered. :(

The rest of this post may not be quite oriented to the beginning player – we’ll have to see! I am discussing theoretical options in regards to computer postmortem analysis for weaker players below the cut.


Merry Christmas from the LaughingVulcan

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Merry Christmas!

May you have a blessed holiday season and a joyous New Year to come.

I haven’t preached from a pulpit in quite some time (not a congregation’s pulpit, anyway…) And I generally do not abide preaching to those who haven’t asked for it, and I hope I won’t come across as preachy now. But, for me, Christmas is about the event when God came to Earth and was born in human form. This had purposes: to spend time with us as us, revealing that our Creator is still with us and loves us, and to provide a path by which any person can be part of the promise of divine love and redemption while still imperfect on this Earth.

It’s a purpose worth getting to know as best as one can. And a joyous event to be celebrated every day of one’s life – not just December 25th.

End sermon…

Now, for something a little fun. I first posted this on the USCF Forums on December 23rd. I hope you enjoy my Chess Filks.

“Jingle Blitz”

Dashing through the moves-
Getting through the game.
Pieces in the groove-
Laughing all the way (Check! Check! Check!)
Book moves I do fling-
Making pieces bright…
What fun it is to play and wing
G/ three all through the night!

Oh, jingle blitz, jingle blitz
Blitzing all the way
Oh what fun it is to play
The ten-moves a minute way___!
Jingle blitz, jingle blitz
Blitzing all the way
Oh I hope my brains don’t leak
[On my PC] on Christmas Day!

A day or two ago
I logged in to I C C
Have not stopped playing yet
A thousand games on my P C
The modem’s smoking hot
My “fave” lines in my head
I hope I don’t get billed by loss-
or then I would be dead!

Oh, jingle blitz, jingle blitz
Blitzing all the way
Oh what fun it is to play
The ten-moves a minute way___!
Jingle blitz, jingle blitz
Blitzing all the way
Oh I hope my brains don’t leak
[On my PC] on Christmas Day!


“I’ll Be Playing the Ruy Lopez” (I’ll be Home for Christmas)

I’ll be playing the Ruy Lopez
You can count on me
To drift my Bishop to b5-
The classic lines and trees!

Move fifty-five will find me
Still in book you see…
I’ll be playing the Ruy Lo—pez
If you’ll play e5 to me!


“All I Want for Christmas”

Everybody stops and stares at me
My old chess set? Beat up [as] you can see
I don’t know how my hor-sey died but he did you see
But my one wish on Christmas Eve
is as plain as it can be!

All I want for Christmas
is [the] Mammoth I-vor-y
Mammoth I-vor-y
See the Mammoth Ivory?

Gee if I could only
own the Mammoth Ivory
then I could play with you!
“Hey! A Checkmate!”

It seems so long since I could play
Without my King looking like a Queenie!

Gosh oh gee, how happy I’d be,
if I could have those pieces! *rude noise!*

All I want for Christmas
is [the] Mammoth I-vor-y
Mammoth I-vor-y
See the Mammoth Ivory?
Gee if I could only
own the Mammoth Ivory
then I could play with you!
“Hey! A Checkmate!”

Early XMAS for LV! eNotate Unboxing!

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Best of Christmas-Eve Day wishes to you! Christmas Day greetings coming tomorrow. For now…

Yesterday my eNotate PDA did arrive as expected from Sevan Muradian at the North American Chess Association. Let’s hear it for the hard working United States Postal Service employees! (Cold, bitter rain all day today in Bloomington.) And a round of applause for my wife, who was home to receive it.

*LV Bounces off the walls, grinning like a GM about to play for money against Bill Gates.*

Kudos to Sevan Muradian, too, after the cut!

Eventually I’ll post a full review post with other pictures. But, for the moment, here’s some of the unboxing pictures after the cut! Enjoy!


Almost Drawish

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Last night was a good night at the Chess Club! Last chance to see people until Christmas. With that in mind, losing isn’t so bad! (Actually I simuled two boards and won 2 games and drew 1, and then lost two 3-minute games in a row. But I may *slowly* be getting the hang of Blitz.)

On to the meat of today’s post… Last Saturday I played out a Sicilian Defense game where I nearly held a draw, but not quite. I was equal, down, equal, down through the game. The critical position was:

Sicilian Defense Position

Position After 31, Nb5

I believe 31. …a6 is forced. Then 32. Nd6, and the next move should be 32. …b6. It’s pretty obvious in retrospect, but instead I would up playing 32. …Ke6.

After 32. ...Ke6. Oops!

And from here White has 32. Nxb7. So I resigned.
We worked for awhile on variations, to see if Black could somehow force a Kingside storm of Pawns since Black’s pawns are more advanced. But it does indeed look like White eventually gets a promotion and the win.
Even with 32. …b6 White still has a win – but best play puts the promotion at move 51 according to Fritz 6. And a lot can happen in 19 moves among amateurs. :)
The full game along with Fritz 6 analysis and my comments can be found here.

Slow Day…

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I had hoped to have something to post for today – usually I try to stock up a couple of days posts in advance on the weekends, since Monday and Tuesday evenings I am playing Chess.

But, since I don’t, I’ll give a shameless plug for where I play chess: Colley’s Chess Cafe. There is a link on the sidebar at the right to Colley’s.

If you’re ever in Bloomington, Illinois, please drop by and see us on Tuesday nights! There is also open play on most Saturday mornings (but the cafe does close on scholastic tournament weekends,) and I don’t think it will be open this Saturady because of Christmas.

The Twin Cities Chess Club is now meeting again, on Monday nights. I believe visitors are certainly welcome. :D

Being part of a chess club, or a regular place to play, is a great way to

Enjoy your Chess!

Tools of the Trade, Part 9 (Database!)

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Finally, I get to talk about a major tool for players: Your database.

Databases are systematized collections of data. Usually, the system selected converts the collection from data into information. They aren’t limited to computers: A recipe file box, for example, is a database in manual form. You can take the data (ingredients and directions,) set them into recipes organized by category, find and select certain recipes, and make a meal from the collective information presented.

You can manually systematize your chess games, if you have recorded them. You could sort them by opponent, opening (if you have written the opening or code,) result, etc. Before computers top players actually did this.

But you can also use a computer to create a database of your games. One in digital form, you can: replay them, determine alternate moves that would have worked better, analyze them with a playing program, develop a functional opening repertoire, examine games of Grandmasters, play back games from books and magazines, search for games that meet certain positions and conditions, see if your position has been played before, and more.

I am not going to be able to give the subject its due justice. I won’t really be getting into features and what distinguishes the programs, mostly. They’re all good, in different ways. But I will outline what’s out there. There are two main commercial alternatives, and two freeware alternatives.

First, freeware! SCID (Shane’s Chess Information Database.) It has the distinction of being able to run in Windows, Unix/Linux, and Mac. I have used it a little bit for evaluation on Linux, but not much. It uses the PGN file standard. Seems to be very solid.

The other freeware alternative is the somewhat-dated XBoard/Winboard. I don’t think XBoard was ever intended to be as fully functional a database as the other alternatives here. But XBoard/Winboard has since been expanded to cover: Chess, Chinese chess (Xiangqi,) Japanese chess (Shogi,) and also supports chess variants (Losers Chess, Crazyhouse, Fischer Random, and Capablanca Chess.) It is usable to load and save PGN format games. An Old-School alternative that still has relevance today. It is available in Windows (Winboard,) and Unix/Linux (XBoard) versions. (I started out with Winboard some years ago.)

Now that the “free” is out of the way, paid versions offer additional features and flexibility that the free versions can’t quite match. Before getting into them: Both alternatives offer “light” versions for free download. They are sufficient to get to know the programs a little. But both have restrictions, either in database size or inability to save new games. Someday I’ll try to detail the differences between them.

First, I’ll cover Chess Assistant, published by Convekta, Ltd.. $79.98 at USCF Sales. It is a very good program. I’ve used the trial version on Linux – it seems to run OK under the Wine compatibility layer. I’ve used it a little, but not much. The “light” version can be downloaded here.

And it’s main competitor, ChessBase, published by ChessBase gmbH. It will be hard for me to not write a lot about ChessBase – it is the software I use regularly. But in fairness to the other good programs, I won’t go into detail now. (I will note that the diagrams I put up here, and the game replays I offer, are all created through ChessBase.)

Price on ChessBase is a little harder. Usually I plug the USCF Sales as much as I can. But the “Basic” version of ChessBase is listed as $199.99. And there is a cheaper alternative. The “Light” version of CB can be upgraded for about $72.00 direct from ChessBase, turning it into “Light Premium 2009.” This is the option I chose – ChessBase Light Premium (2007.) The differences between the various CB offerings are here – with Light Premium mostly you don’t get the huge Master/GM databases.

ChessBase also allows one to play online at their server. I won’t get into that at the moment, though. A future Tools will look at online play.

If you’re wondering why I went with ChessBase…. Back in the day, ChessBase Light Free did allow you to save games with a database restriciton of a few thousand games. (This was before “Light Premium.”) I’ve been a ChessBase user since version 6. And once you head down the path of using either CB or CA, you tend to stay with that choice.

I think that’s it for now. The best advice I can give you: Download one (or more!) of the packages and try them out a little – see if you find one that really works well for you. A database is not absolutely essential, but is helpful in more ways than can be listed. And it’s a great way to expand the ability to

Enjoy your Chess!

Online Resources

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

So, obviously you’re online if you’re reading this!

There are numerous good sources of information out there. (There are also bad sources…) Some of it comes down to personal preferences, some to the information you’re seeking, and also to the quality and accuracy of information presented.

Some of my favorites are listed in the sidebar to the right.

One source I need to mention here for the record: I do not participate in Usenet or Google Groups. If you see my name over there (either as “Darren Erickson” or “LaughingVulcan”,) either the post has been lifted from elsewhere or it is fake.

If I ever change my mind about that, I’ll post the change on my blog. But I have never seen the strength of Usenet, especially since there are so many other quality phpBB bulletin boards out there. (And there were modem-access BBSes out there long before Usenet, too!)

I haven’t come up with a Links policy yet (I’ve only had one request for a link to date.) I won’t promise that I’ll link to just anybody who asks. But if you’ve found a good site and want to put it into the comments, I’ll take a look and it might wind its way to the sidebar.

(BTW, I’m not talking about Spam Links here – I reserve the right to edit any comment posted to this blog or delete it outright. Them’s the rules.) But I do want to know what your favorites are. Exploring the wealth of chess information the Internet has to present to us is another way to

Enjoy your Chess!